It is common to hear people complain about immigrants taking the jobs of locals. The logic behind this is simple; if an immigrant has a job then that is one less job for a local. It is therefore deduced that a large influx of immigrants would be disastrous, leading to mass unemployment and a decline in the standard of living. However this is not supported by the evidence. There are several examples of huge numbers of immigrants entering a country within a short period of time, yet the economy does not collapse.
Between 1990 and 1997 Israel received an enormous flow of immigrants, mostly Jews from the former Soviet Union. They increased the labour force by 15% yet the economy still boomed. Unemployment actually dropped throughout this period. After an initial drop in 1990, wages too increased. This is because the immigrants created an increase in demand. This isn’t the only example. When France withdrew from Algeria, a large number of settlers emigrated from Algeria to go to France. There was a similar result when Portugal withdrew from its African colonies. In both cases the labour supply greatly increased with only marginal effects on wages and unemployment. After all every immigrant needs a house, clothes food etc. Creating these goods provides employment for locals. It is not a zero-sum game where immigrants gain and natives lose or vice versa, but rather a win-win situation.
If merely increasing the labour supply caused unemployment then we should ban women from working outside the home. After all every job a woman has is one less for a man. Has female participation in the workforce lead to mass male unemployment? This is because the increased spending power of women gave a boost to the economy as a whole. People don’t just take jobs, they make them as well. Every wage spent becomes someone else’s income. It’s a virtuous circle.
In fact neither immigrants nor natives need lose out. If they are not in competition but rather complementing each other then both stand to gain. If immigrants have different skills then they will actually boost the economy, increasing both immigrants and native wages. In fact it is anti-immigrant campaigners who argue that immigrants are different to native workers. Immigrants have different educational levels and sometimes don’t speak the local language so can hardly be competition for the same jobs as natives. It is often shown that immigrants take jobs that locals simply do not want.
Numerous economic studies all come to the same conclusions. Immigrants don’t steal our jobs. In fact they benefit the economy through new ideas and innovation. They take jobs natives don’t want and create demand for native workers. Immigrants don’t steal jobs, rather they create them.