Viewpoints: How might Romanian and Bulgarian immigration affect the UK?

UK border controls at an airport

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The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK rose by a quarter in three months, new figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics said 141,000 were employed from April to June compared with 112,000 in the previous three months - up nearly 26%.

This comes just before temporary restrictions on the type of jobs open to people from the two countries are due to expire later this year.

Here are five views on the impact that Romanian and Bulgarian immigration might have on the UK.

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Nigel Farage

[Migrants] put pressure on those sections of society least able to defend themselves”

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Nigel Farage, leader of UK Independence Party

So far the government has been in utter denial about the impact of opening the door in January to Romanian and Bulgarian immigration with no restrictions in the new year.

They have refused point blank to release their estimates about the numbers they expect to arrive and they appear to be engaging in a futile rejection of reality.

It is a simple fact that if you open your doors to people from countries with significantly lower wages and GDP than the UK then migratory flows will come.

In the main those arriving will be competing in the low-skills market and will put pressure on those sections of society least able to defend themselves.

My own experience of this is in taxi cabs where I am regularly booked into cabs driven by those who have been recruited as drivers in Bulgaria and Romania.

Nigel Farage

  • UKIP MEP for South East England
  • Elected leader of UKIP in 2006. Re-elected in 2010 after briefly standing down

Nice enough people, but without any local knowledge. Even with a satnav to hand they invariably get lost.

In the meantime, British drivers are driven out of work as they, with mortgages and local ties, cannot compete on wages.

Of course, there is nothing that the government can do about the problem, as they are committed to membership of the EU, which is the root cause of the problem. To act, would be to break EU law.

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Jonathan Portes

Impacts on the UK economy and labour market are likely to be small, but broadly positive”

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Jonathan Portes, of National Institute of Economic and Social Research

The big picture is that most migrants from the new member states of the EU come here to work; they are young and place relatively few demands on public services.

Yesterday's figures showed migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are more likely to be in work than the population as a whole. However, the overall impact on the labour market is not likely to be that large - the increase in Bulgarian and Romanian workers in the latest statistics represents one in a thousand of the UK workforce.

Migrants in general, in particular those from the new member states, are less likely to claim benefits than the general population.

Future migration from Bulgaria and Romania is unlikely to have a significant impact on the NHS. Economic migrants, in particular, are generally young and healthy and do not make major demands on health services.

Jonathan Portes

  • Previously chief economist at the Cabinet Office under Labour government
  • Now director of NIESR

Any migration of families may potentially increase pressure on school places at primary level in areas experiencing pressure on places. While existing evidence suggests that migrant children do not have a negative impact on school performance, language assistance will need to be provided, at least for any new arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania.

Any impacts of migration on housing are most likely to be felt in the private rented sector.

Overall, our assessment is that the impacts on the UK economy and labour market are likely to be small, but broadly positive, as you would expect given that most new migrants will be relatively young and their primary motivation is to find work.

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Max Wind-Cowie

When a new community effectively commandeers a place... that leads to resentment”

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Max Wind-Cowie, of Demos

The impact of immigration on the economy, wages, resources and public services is much debated and hugely contentious. But at least there are numbers to work from.

Questions about the social consequences of an inflow such as that we have seen - and will see - of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants are even more complex.

Large and sudden arrivals can lead to extreme concentrations of migrant communities - people from Romania and Bulgaria, arriving en masse, will naturally congregate in places where there is unskilled, flexible work available and where friends and relatives may be already.

Max Wind-Cowie

  • Runs Integration and National Identity programme at think tank Demos
  • Oversees research on immigration, ethnic cohesion and patriotism

It is this accidental drift towards ghettoisation that has had such a profound impact on places like Boston. And when a new community effectively commandeers a place - including the public resources such as schools and hospitals that it offers - that leads to resentment and a steady erosion of our social fabric.

People become much less willing to pay into a communal pot when they think they can see it being exploited by people who do not appear to be making much of an effort to fit in with their new neighbours.

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Pawel Swidlicki

Free movement has been broadly beneficial for the UK”

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Pawel Swidlicki, research analyst at Open Europe

Free movement has been broadly beneficial for the UK but it needs to be delicately handled.

Although European migrants are distributed from low- to high-skilled jobs, migrants typically work in agriculture, catering, hospitality and construction.

It would be fair to say that the lowest paid are the most affected by immigration. In some areas such as Slough and Lincolnshire, there has been an increase in pressure on public services such as schools, the NHS and the police.

But there is no conclusive evidence that the last wave of immigration - when Poland, Hungary and others entered the EU in 2004 - had a negative effect on employment in the UK.

Employment among UK-born workers stayed roughly steady while overall job creation increased. In other words, EU migration didn't contribute to unemployment - but new jobs created often did not go to local workers.

Public confidence in migration is low. The perception is that it's too easy for EU migrants to access the social welfare system, even though employment is proportionally higher among migrants.

Pawel Swidlicki

  • Research analyst at Open Europe since 2011
  • Specialises in Central and Eastern European politics and economics

Part of the problem is the UK's "universalist" welfare system which makes it harder to monitor eligibility compared to the insurance-based models favoured on the Continent.

The public need to be reassured not only that people who have not paid into the system are not abusing it, but also that this cannot happen.

For this, there needs to be some mechanism by which the ineligibility of claimants can be determined, with rigorous testing and checks in place.

The EU ought to drop its counter-productive challenge against the UK's "right to reside" test and instead work with the UK and other member states to restore clarity to the overly complex rules governing EU migrants' access to benefits.

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Sir Andrew Green

We are simply not prepared to for migration on this scale”

End Quote
Sir Andrew Green, director of Migration Watch UK

The increase this year is a surprise given that the UK labour market is not open until next January.

And there's a wildcard in this. There are nearly a million Romanians living in Italy and another million in Spain, both of which have high unemployment, and so many may end up moving to Germany or the UK.

It is all pointing to a fairly significant movement of workers to the UK. We've estimated that there will be between 30,000 and 70,000 net migration from Romania and Bulgaria for each of the next five years.

In considering the impact on the UK, we should add this number to the present level of net migration, which is about 150,000 a year.

Sir Andrew Green

  • Former diplomat, served as ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia
  • Founded Migration Watch UK in 2001

So the effect of it is, if our estimates our correct, that we will revert to net migration of 200,000 people every year.

This would place a severe strain on schools, housing and infrastructure in the UK.

Just over a third of all new households will be formed by migrants. This means that we'd have to build a home every seven minutes for the next 20 years to cope with the extra demand.

As for schools, already we're short of 120,000 primary school places for the start of the new school year. If immigration is allowed to continue these problems will continue and spread to secondary schools.

We are simply not prepared for migration on this scale, and the public certainly don't want to see it.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    There are 2.5m+ unemploiyed in the UK, probably nearly 3m if we're honest...

    So, why are Bulgarians and Romanians coming here?

    We need to legislate right now that companies in the UK should be taking on UK born workers and if they don't have the right skills - invest in them and train them.

    Stop relying on cheap and desperate foreign labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    It is ok to say that the last wave of immigration shows no negative impacts but the additional population in an already crowded country surely will present a problem.

    I dont have problems with people moving over here, many of my friends and collegues are not born here but work hard. Its just the number, there has got to be a point we put in measures to stop the ever increasing influx.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The UK is a giant pyramid scheme and needs ever-increasing numbers, whether that be GDP, the money supply, debt, population, house prices...

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I struggle to see how and influx of lower end workers will have a positive effect on job creation. If farage is able to convince people of the economic arguments against immigration then he may be leading the only party to do so and as such pick up a fair amount of votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    There is a BBC webpage somewhere showing that only people earning £27k pa are nett contributors to the economy, once health, education etc provision is counted e.g.a child state school place costs £5k pa +
    Are all these Romanians and Bulgarians going to be earning £27k pa ?

    I think not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We are an island with finite space, finite jobs & finite resources so It beggars belief that this government is, in my opinion, unwilling to determine a finite limit to the UK's adult population. Why ? because it fears losing votes to the vocal PC minority. It should do well to remember the silent majority are looking for clear action to halt net immigration & will vote accordingly. Enough !

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    If a person is skilled or has something to offer to society I do not mind at all, after all my family migrated here in the u.k. And my mother is now a pharmacist. It's just a question of housing and the benefits these people bring to society. If they want to improve their lives then the best of luck to them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It's BRITISH employers exploiting cheap foreign labour that's the problem.
    BOYCOTT those that use foreign labour on 0 hour contracts, as they're less likely to complain. Vote for someone that'll stop workers from being exploited & make it an even playing field.
    I don’t blame anyone for emigrating to make a better life for themselves. I blame those who exploit them.
    The power is in our hands

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Whereas 'English' type shops are closing in my town centre, Polish and Slovakian shops seem to be doing a roaring trade.

    Now with Romanian and Bulgarian shops to follow, the high street is certainly going to have that cosmopolitan feel. On a sunny day I almost feel as if I'm abroad as I walk through the town centre.

    Then to bring me back down to earth I walk past Lidl.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It really is time for an informed debate on immigration inc it's effects, intentional and not. A debate free from prejudice and accusations of racism and xenophobia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    So 100,000 more people living here but no extra homes.

    It's not going to lower housing rents is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    How will it affect the UK?, cue strained housing, an NHS at even more capacity, a major impact on schools and the lowest paid British born in the UK to be squeezed even further by bosses. Still those who were born here and live heres views are not important to the EU and the ruling elite, all they want is a rosy Multicutural vision and bosses who make even more profit due to poor wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.


    Anyone who thinks that this immigration into the UK is an accident, is a fool

    It is government policy to allow immigrants to increase population in the UK every year

    Why ?

    One reason : the economy. Our economy is a pyramid scheme with people at the top getting stinking rich, everyone else paying.

    In a pyramid scheme you have to add new people to the bottom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    if all the migrants left would there be any uk unemployment? and would wages and conditions be so bad? Whoever benefits from low paid agency labour its not the unemployed is it?


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