The government pledged to reduce migration substantially at the last election. One of its main reasons for doing so is the pressure rapid large scale migration places on public services and housing, making it difficult for the country to keep up with demand. When we welcome people to our country we want them to enjoy a decent standard of living and to be a successful part of a community which is well off by world standards.
Some analysis which shows low paid migrants make a contribution by paying more in tax than they receive in benefits does not tell the whole story. Some of it does not even tell the whole story on tax and benefits, by leaving out Housing benefit. Relying on averages can be misleading. It is clearly true that a low paid migrant will pay some VAT and other charges, even if their NI and Income tax contribution is low. What this analysis rarely shows is the capital costs the state and others need to undertake to provide for the needs of a large new migrant inflow.
The ONS in their National Balance Sheet work has a figure for the end of 2013 saying that each UK resident is supported by on average £119,000 of capital assets. Housing is the main asset in each case, but we all needs road, trains, power stations, water works, doctors surgeries and schools as part of the community backup for us and our families. If one extra migrant arrives there may be no need to build a new surgery or add a new power station, but if hundreds of thousands arrive we do need to expand physical capacity and add buildings and equipment as well as hiring more public service staff.
The £119,000 figure is an average, and includes a lot of expensive housing in some parts of the country. It would therefore be wrong to suggest we need to provide £119,000 for every new migrant, or that all that money has to be spent on public provision. It is , however, the case that every migrant will need a home and many will need state or social housing as they will find home prices too dear. Some will rent from the private sector, but will seek Housing Benefit assistance as rents are often high.
One of the reasons we need more accurate figures for new arrivals is to plan better. We need to ensure the right number of new homes, extra school places, GP surgery capacity, adequate water and electricity supply and the rest. Each migrant will need several tens of thousands of pounds of backing investment on average to ensure they can all be housed and provided for to a satisfactory standard. There are said by the government to be 64.5 m people in the UK, but there are 68.4 m registered with GPs.