The pros and cons of migration

There are many arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of migration and how it has affected us locally.

Positive Impacts on host countries

• Job vacancies and skills gaps can be filled.

• Economic growth can be sustained.

• Services to an ageing population can be maintained when there are insufficient young people locally.

• The pension gap can be filled by the contributions of new young workers and they also pay taxes.

• Immigrants bring energy and innovation.

• Host countries are enriched by cultural diversity.

• Failing schools (and those with falling numbers) can be transformed.

Negative Impacts on host countries

• Depression of wages may occur, especially in lower paid jobs.

• Having workers willing to work for relatively low pay may allow employers to ignore productivity, training and innovation.

• Migrants may be exploited.

• Increases in population can put pressure on public services.

• Unemployment may rise if there are unrestricted numbers of incomers.

• There may be integration difficulties and friction with local people.

• Large movements of people lead to more security monitoring.

• Ease of movement may facilitate organised crime and people trafficking.

Positive Impacts on countries of origin

• Developing countries benefit from remittances (payments sent home by migrants). These now often outstrip foreign aid.

• Unemployment is reduced and young migrants enhance their life prospects

• Returning migrants bring savings, skills and international contacts.

Negative Impacts on countries of origin

• Economic disadvantage through the loss of young workers

• Loss of highly trained people, especially health workers

• Social problems for children left behind or growing up without a wider family circle

The Effects of Increased Migration in Northern Ireland

An Oxford Economics study published by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) in 2009 concluded that migrant workers had helped maintain a sufficient labour supply to fuel the 2004–2008 economic boom. The availability of migrant labour appeared to have made the difference between some businesses surviving, or not needing to relocate production abroad (especially in the case of food processing). The authors quote a survey of 600 businesses where 31% said that migrants were important in the survival of their organisation; this rose to 50% in health and social care and agriculture.

In addition the study indicated that migrants have:

• facilitated growth in the economy;

• brought benefits to the tourism industry through the development of new air routes;

• had a positive influence on the productivity or efficiency of local workers;

• contributed new ideas and a fresh approach to firms;

• increased cultural links with developing nations that will prove useful in growing our international trade.

In addition to these economic benefits, incomers have helped the health and care services to continue functioning; contributed to cultural diversity; and increased the vitality of schools, particularly in rural areas.


It is clear that immigration can be beneficial for migrants, but only if their rights are protected properly. It can also be economically beneficial for both countries of origin and host countries; however, with present economic and trading structures it is the rich and powerful countries that benefit most. Migration brings social and cultural pressures that need to be taken into account in planning for future services. Migration also has the potential for bringing peoples together culturally but friction occurs if efforts are not made to dispel negative myths held by local people. It is also essential to provide good information about the local way of life to newcomers and ensure opportunities for people to mix and integrate. Where the economic preconditions exist, migration is inevitable. When people try to prevent immigration it just goes underground.