Mass migration not delivering promised economic benefits, say Jenrick and O'Brien

New report calls for return to tens of thousands target, caps on main migrant routes and splitting up Home Office to increase focus on border control

A new report from the Centre for Policy Studies, written by former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick MP, former minister Neil O’Brien MP, and CPS Research Director Karl Williams argues that the scale and composition of recent migration have failed to deliver the significant economic and fiscal benefits its advocates promised, while putting enormous pressure on housing, public services and infrastructure.

The analysis argues:

  • Large-scale migration has not delivered significant growth in GDP per capita, and has increased the strain on our capital stock, from roads and GP surgeries to housing
  • Net migration accounts for around 89% of the 1.34 million increase in England’s housing deficit (the amount of homes we have underbuilt by) in the last 10 years
  • Pressure has been added to rental markets, as well as affecting home ownership. For example, 67% of private rented households in London are headed by someone born overseas, as were 33% of new social housing lets in Brent in 2022/23
  • Between 2001 and 2021, the share of people in England and Wales born outside the UK increased from 9% to 17%, but this rate of change is set to accelerate
  • On the current trajectory, net migration will amount to annual population growth of over 0.6% across the 2020s – double the rate of the last three decades, and six times the rate of the 1990s
  • Migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey aged 25-64 are almost twice as likely to be economically inactive as someone born in the UK
  • Earnings, and therefore tax contributions, also vary enormously, for example Spanish migrants typically earn around 40% more than migrants from Pakistan or Bangladesh, but roughly 35% less than migrants from France or America. Migrants from countries such as Canada, Singapore and Australia pay between four and nine times as much income tax as migrants from Somalia or Pakistan

The full report includes over thirty recommendations, the vast majority of which can be implemented within the remainder of this parliament. Recommendations include:

  • Abolishing the Graduate route, instead giving foreign students who want to stay in the UK should need to find graduate-level jobs that meet the salary threshold within six months of the end of their studies
  • Substantially revising the International Education Strategy (IES), ending the arbitrary 600,000 a year target for the number on international students
  • Accepting the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation to retire the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) altogether, rather than just creating a new, opaque Immigration Salary List (ISL)
  • Setting the salary threshold for health & care visas above the National Living Wage, while raising the minimum hourly wage in the care sector by 20-40p to boost domestic recruitment
  • Creating time-limited exceptions to visa limits for NHS workers, until the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan ramps up
  • Imposing an immediate cap on health & care visas at c.30,000, roughly the level seen in 2021
  • Indexing salary thresholds for visa routes in line with inflation, to prevent automatic liberalisation
  • A Whitehall-wide examination of data recording and transparency to allow comprehensive analysis of the impact of migration on everything from housing and public spending to crime and productivity, led by the Migration Advisory Committee
  • Splitting up the Home Office to create a new Department of Border Security and Immigration Control, with the rest of the department forming a Department for Policing and National Security

As reported on Sunday 28 April, the report also calls for:

  • Reaffirming a national commitment to return net migration to the historical norm of the tens of thousands
  • Instituting an annual cap on each individual visa route, voted on by Parliament as part of a ‘Migration Budget’
  • The preparation of a ‘Migration Book’, akin to the Treasury’s Red Book, which should pull together data from across all relevant departments, looking at the demographic and fiscal footprint of migration forecasts, as well as the net impact on housing, infrastructure and access to public services


Robert Jenrick MP, former Minister for Immigration and report co-author, said:

‘It would be unforgivable if the Government did not use the time before the general election to undo the disastrous post-Brexit liberalisations that betrayed the express wishes of the British public for lower immigration.

‘The changes we propose today would finally return numbers to the historical norm and deliver the highly-selective, highly-skilled immigration system voters were promised. These policies could be implemented immediately and would consign low-skilled mass migration to the past.

‘Immigration is consistently one of the top concerns of voters and they deserve a Department whose sole mission is controlling immigration and securing our borders. For far too long, the Home Office has proven incapable of doing that.’

Neil O’Brien MP, former minister and report co-author, said:

‘Large-scale migration has not delivered the economic benefits its defenders argue it should – with the era of mass migration coinciding with a significant slowdown in GDP per capita growth. It has also put significant strain on public services and infrastructure: migrants may bring skills with them but they cannot bring additional roads, school places, or GPs surgeries. Unprecedented levels of migration have put upward pressure on rents and house prices.

‘The public have repeatedly voted for parties who commit to controlling immigration, now we need to deliver. When David Cameron set his goal of getting in migration down to the tens of thousands we did not actually control migration from Europe and migration from the EU was very high over the following years. But now we do have full control over migration and we need to make full use of that to deliver a selective high skill, high wage migration system.

‘The recommendations outlined in our report will help create a migration system which the public can have faith in, reduces pressure on infrastructure and public services, and delivers for the taxpayer.’

Karl Williams, CPS Research Director and report co-author, said:

‘Traditionally, the Treasury and much of the rest of government have modelled immigration as an unqualified benefit to the public purse. But this is not the case – especially given the scale and make-up of net migration in recent years. The average migrant from New Zealand or the Philippines is almost twice as likely to be in work as a new arrival from Iraq, and 50% more likely than a migrant from Bangladesh or Somalia. The pressure on housing can also differ even for those from similar regions – for example, only 6% of people from India live in social housing compared to 15% from Pakistan and 34% from Bangladesh.

‘The improvements we propose in this report will not only help design a migration system which works for the country, by maximising the kind of migration which benefits Britain most, but will bring a level of democratic accountability that the public can have faith in.’




  • ‘Taking Back Control: Why Britain needs a better approach to immigration’ is available to download here.
  • There will be an event to launch the paper at 9.30am Wednesday 8 May at a Westminster location. To request a press place please contact Emma Revell, CPS External Affairs Director, on 07931 698246 or [email protected].
  • Robert Jenrick is the Conservative MP for Newark and former Minister for Immigration, Neil O’Brien is the Conservative MP for Harborough, and Karl Williams is Research Director at the Centre for Policy Studies.
  • For further information and media requests, please contact Emma Revell, CPS External Affairs Director, on 07931 698246 or [email protected].
  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in Westminster. With a focus on taxation, economic growth, business, welfare, education, housing and green growth, its goal is to develop policies that widen enterprise, ownership and opportunity.

Date Added: Wednesday 8th May 2024