The impact of migration on population structure

Poland was one of ten nations joining the European Union on the 1st of April 2004. Eight of these countries(the A8, as coined by the EU) were Eastern European nations the other two the Mediterranean island nations of Malta and Cyprus. This has a big impact because the EU allows free movement of labour (therefore migration) between its member countries. An increase in migration into the EU’s more prosperous nations was expected following the accession (entry) of the A8 nations, most of which had higher unemployment rates and lower standards of living.
The UK government at the time predicted there would be 15,000 migrants from the A8 countries moving to the UK for employment. This turned out to be a gross underestimate. People from the A8 countries who wished to work in the UK for more than one month were generally required to register with the Home Office’s Worker Registration Scheme (WRS). By July 2006 447,000 people from Eastern Europe had applied to work in the UK. 62% (264,555) came from Poland. An additional 105,000 moved between July and December 2006, taking the total of Polish migrant workers to 370,000 since April 2004. An additional 150,000 people from the A8 nations migrated to the UK as self-employed workers, such as builders and plumbers, who do not need to register with the WRS. The Polish Embassy stated that the number of Polish workers in Britain was between 500,000 and 600,000. This would mean that Poles were now the third-largest minority ethnic group in the UK, after Pakistanis and Indians.
Migration from the A8 countries has been the subject of great debate in the UK. Concerns ranged over the costs of supporting poor Polish migrants, of Poles taking jobs from British workers, of young Poles behaving badly, of the growth of Catholicism in Britain, of road signs appearing in Polish, and so on. More academic analysis has suggested that the new migrants are beneficial to the UK in several ways:
• £2.54bn is contributed to the economy annually by eastern European immigrants in the UK.
• Migrants have contributed 0.5 to 1% of the UK’s economic growth in 2005 and 2006.
• 80% of new migrants are working people between the ages of 18 and 35. This offsets the dependency for the UK’s population to age, addressing the difficulties in providing for an ageing
population. National Insurance contributions would have to be higher if immigration was lower.
• The Bank of England stated that migration had helped to prevent the rapid rise in oil prices from causing a damaging surge of inflation, which allowed interest rates to remain lower than they otherwise would have been. Ernst & Young estimated that the cost of borrowing and of mortgages would be 0.5% higher if it were not for the migrants.
• The new migrants are stereotypically hard-working, enthusiastic, skilled and flexible.
Issues of concern include:
• Some Polish migrants have been exploited by unscrupulous employers and employment agencies in the UK. Although paid the minimum wage, some workers have
had large deductions made for accommodation, transport, food etc., which have reduced their earnings considerably.
• The broad geographical spread of Polish and other A8 migrants has brought large-scale migration to areas which have not experienced it before. This has created tensions and misunderstandings. Anti-Polish graffiti has appeared on the streets of a number of UK cities.
Providing services for Polish people and their families, for example extra English lessons in schools.