Are people really afraid of immigration or are they afraid of change?

immigration centre

by Alex Addyman

Immigration is a hot topic – so hot indeed that according to recent research it could decide who runs the country in two years’ time. But, as recent research from The Economist highlights, the extent of immigration concern amongst voters and the evidence from previous immigrant waves is at odds.

The Economist suggests that fears prior to the influx of Polish immigrants from 2004 onwards have largely proved unfounded. While the Polish population in the UK has grown to become the second largest foreign-born population in a relatively short time they have integrated well both socially and economically.

Evidence to support this includes examples from the East and West Midlands where property crime has dropped and social cohesion has improved. Also contrary to suggestions that immigrants will impose a strain on public services and welfare, evidence shows that relatively few Poles (or other Eastern Europeans) use health or public housing services or claim benefits.

Economically there are examples of Poles taking jobs which were not being filled prior to 2004 including from a Conservative Councillor and business owner in Peterborough. Furthermore whilst many Poles began by filling more menial jobs they have begun to become more entrepreneurial and more ambitious potentially leaving a gap for newly arriving Bulgarians and Romanians to fill.

This positive picture of Polish integration is not lost on the public either, it would seem. Polls show that when asked most people claim to like local Polish and other East European communities. Despite this most people polled remain opposed to further immigration – particularly prior to the influx of Bulgarian and Romanians in January 2014.

The evidence covered in this post would suggest that fear of change is perhaps one of the biggest factors at play in discussions around immigration to the UK. People fear a massive influx of new people, whatever their background. The evidence here demonstrates that, once new arrivals have settled, the existing populace grows less fearful and even grows to appreciate the presence of immigrants both socially and economically.


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