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The Australian points system would boost UK migration

Jonathan Lindsell, 3 February 2015

Immigration will be a hot topic in the upcoming election. Ukip, some Conservative MPs and the mayor of London advocate the ‘Australian points based system’ (PBS) for managing Britain’s borders, with that system applying to EU and non-EU arrivals alike.

The Australian system is more restrictive than the free movement of persons policy maintained as part of our EU membership. It requires economic migrants to meet a certain number of points, awarded according to English language proficiency, youthfulness, education, skills, and work experience.

If Britain left the EU and applied the system in a similar way to Australia –allowing for Welsh and Scots Gaelic speakers – then a PBS would have a number of strengths. It would be fairer to medium skilled non-European applicants, whose places are currently restricted by the Conservatives’ target of reducing net immigration below 100,000. By creating higher entry barriers in paperwork and planning terms, it might encourage applicants more committed to settling long term and integrating. Overall, it should mean a highly skilled, language proficient, professional workforce.

What it would not do is reduce the kinds of migration that many voters seem concerned with. The PBS ‘skilled occupations list’ includes not only surgeons and engineers (whom we already let in) but plumbers, electricians, builders. Many EU/EEA applicants would, then, still qualify.

Australia does operate a cap on the PBS route, but it’s only one of many settlement routes. You can also get in via employer sponsorship, family unification, or study. The Immigration Minister sets caps annually on the basis of economic, social and demographic factors – i.e. demand for skilled labour and ability to absorb that labour. In 2013-14 this cap was 190,000 (excluding humanitarian entry). If this was scaled according to UK population, a British PBS cap would be about 513,900 gross entries. This is just shy of the UK’s real 2013 total entry, 526,000. Assuming our asylum policy, which accepts about 20,000 applicants annually, doesn’t change, then the PBS would have boosted gross immigration by roughly 8,000 before students or family unification is counted.

That is only using the PBS part of the Australian system. If we copied the whole system, the effect is magnified. Australia’s net immigration in 2013-14 was 246,000. Again, if the UK let in a number proportionate to population, that would be over 665,000 migrants, net.* That’s 450,000 more than real UK net immigration in 2013. Many voters would have no issue with this – that’s half a million extra committed, hard-working newcomers paying taxes and contributing to society.

But Ukip also ‘commits to bringing UK net migration down to 50,000 people a year for employment’, and would operate work permits. There’s an obvious disconnect here – either Ukip follow the Australian (or Canadian) system and set caps based on economic and demographic factors, or they imposing arbitrary caps and ignore the Australian PBS. They can’t have both.


*Scaled instead by nominal GDP, net UK immigration would be 364,900.

1 comment on “The Australian points system would boost UK migration”

  1. “Many voters would have no issue with this – that’s half a million extra committed, hard-working newcomers paying taxes and contributing to society.”

    Well, it depends what you mean by “many”. The think-tank British Future has recently published the report How to talk about immigration based on research conducted by ICM, Ipsos MORI and YouGov. The report purports to provide a blueprint for both the pros and antis in the immigration debate to manage the subject most effectively in public discussion. This is not something which they achieve because they have bought into the internationalist agenda, viz: “Some three or four generations on from Windrush, it is now a settled and irreversible fact that we are a multi-ethnic society. Managing immigration effectively and fairly in the public interest should and does matter to Britons from different ethnic backgrounds. We should be suspicious of approaches that sharply polarise British citizens along racial lines, in whatever direction”.

    Nonetheless the research does have much of interest. One finding is truly startling. Faced with the question “The government should insist that all immigrants should return to the countries they came from, whether they’re here legally or illegally” the result was Agree 25%, disagree 52% and neither 23%. (P17 of the report). In addition, many of those who said no to forced repatriation were also firm supporters of strong border controls and restrictive immigration policies.

    The fact that 25% of the population have overcome their fear of falling foul of the pc police and say that they do not merely want immigration stopped but sent into reverse is stunning. Moreover, because political correctness has taken such an intimidating place in British society it is reasonable to assume that a substantial number of those who said they disagreed did so simply out of fear of being accused of racism.

    The obverse of the immigration coin was shown by the question “In an increasingly borderless world, we should welcome anyone who wants to come to Britain and not deter them with border controls” (P16 of the report). The results were 14% agree, 67% disagree and 19% don’t know.

    That only 14% support such a policy compared to the 25% who wished for forced repatriation is striking in itself, but it is even better for the opponents of immigration than it looks for two reasons. First, the 14% of those who agreed with the question will be the honest figure because to say that you want open borders carries with it no penalties from the pc police and will gain the person brownie points amongst the politically correct elite and their axillaries. Second, as already mentioned, the 25% of those wanting forced repatriation of all immigrants will understate the true position because a significant proportion of those questioned with be lying out of fear.

    The report also shows that older voters are more likely to be those who are most strongly opposed to immigration (P11 of the report). That is important because older voters are the most likely to vote.



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