Productivity is a key part of the immigration debate

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Sir, Martin Wolf has exposed the fallacy of the economic case for continuing high levels of immigration into the UK (Comment, September 30). He refers to the “huge” increase in immigration that would be required for any significant lowering of Europe’s dependency ratio. Such a massive increment of population (on UN models, 154m between 1995 and 2050, with “far more thereafter” to deal with the immigrants’ own ageing) would clearly be unacceptable to most existing citizens.

Mr Wolf does not, however, dwell on another key factor. High levels of immigration have sustained a low-wage economy in the UK. Employers in many sectors have become used to taking on an effectively unlimited supply of labour at unchanging real wage rates. This, combined with our “flexible labour market” should cause no surprise that productivity levels remain low, compared to those of our trading rivals. Why should employers invest in labour-saving equipment, or reorder their production methods, in these circumstances?

If we have to adjust to a shrinking active workforce due to ageing, we will have to make radical adjustments to our lifestyle and production methods. Immigration is not part of the solution, indeed, it is part of the problem.

James Winpenny

Chipping Norton, Oxon, UK

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