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British Labor Unions: Migrants Help Economy

A new study by British labor unions reports that migrant workers in the United Kingdom are paying more in taxes than the value of the public services they receive. This is contrary to charges by the British anti-immigrant lobby that migrant workers are milking the welfare state. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA.

The Trades Union Congress, a federation that represents most of the labor unions in the United Kingdom, carried out the study, called The Economics of Migration.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber is quoted in a report on the study as saying migrant workers are making a substantial contribution to Britain's economy, and that some sectors would collapse if the workers were removed overnight.

He added that contrary to fears expressed by some, the migrants have not caused mass unemployment or held wages down. The study also found that migrant workers pose no threat to the livelihood of the rest of the workforce and if they are paid a decent wage they can only add to the economy.

But the report says enough is not being done to protect vulnerable workers, whether migrant or indigenous, from exploitation.

The labor federation says its study shows effective enforcement of the minimum wage must be a greater priority than it is at present. It also noted the emergence of a large group of employers habitually breaking the law, which could undermine the minimum wage's effectiveness for all workers.

But Phil Edwards, the press officer of the far-right British National Party, which opposes immigration, dismissed the claim that migrant workers are contributing more than they are getting back in benefits.

"The Home Office found out a few years ago that migrants pay $5 billion more in taxes than they claim in benefits," he said. "However, only a very small number of migrants, possibly American or Australian migrants to Britain, media moguls or financiers, only a small number pay a very large amount of tax. Something like five percent probably pays 95 percent of the tax, which means that the other 78 or 90 percent of the of the immigrants are a net drain. So the figures are purely and simply political spin."

Edwards said that unskilled workers are taking the jobs at the expense of native Britons.

The Trades Union Congress says there are about 1.5 million migrant workers in Britain, about five percent of the workforce.