This is a UK perspective on legal, rather than illegal immigration, but I think it fits the theme:
The far higher than expected influx of immigrants from the new EU Member States to the UK has been a boon for the British middle classes, writes Heather Stewart. But it has also arguably harmed the interests of lower skilled workers.
I'm thinking: another way in which immigration will split the left by pitting liberal-minded middle classes against working class electorates?
The former have far greater capacity to influence party politics, so I'm betting on another boost for the far-right British National Party in 5-10 years..
The author is more optimistic than I am, and remains in favour of according Bulgarians and Romanians free immigration next year as well. Job training and education reform should then provide solutions for the adjoining problems.
(I agree with job training and education reform, and think those are crucial elements of a social-democratic approach to addressing the impact of immigration; but I dont think they are sufficient by themselves.)
My summarised version of the article (about half the size of the real thing, for which you can click the headline):
Since the EU surged eastward two years ago, more than 400,000 citizens from new members have arrived to work in the UK, sparking a fierce debate about the benefits they bring. With Bulgaria and Romania waiting to join in January, many are saying it's time to raise the drawbridge.
According to the Home Office, the most common occupation for the new arrivals is not plumbing or bricklaying, but 'administration, business and management'. The newcomers have spread across the country, transforming communities which have rarely experienced migration on this scale.
For those with secure, well-paying jobs and a mortgage, they have been a boon. A pool of tax-paying workers, by most accounts diligent and willing to take on jobs for which they are over-qualified, has helped to keep the lid on wages. The Bank of England has suggested that the new wave of migration has helped prevent the rapid rise in oil prices from unleashing a damaging surge of inflation. And weaker inflation means interest rates can be lower: that makes the cost of servicing a mortgage cheaper and helps to cement economic stability.
But for lower-skilled workers the influx looks very different. The flipside of the new workers' impact on inflation is that wages are probably growing more slowly than they would otherwise have done (though this is still argued over). Moreover, the government's figures show unemployment rising for more than a year now, at the same time as employment is going up. That shows jobs are still being created, but suggests that some of them are being soaked up by new workers instead of going to the home-grown unemployed.
That may be because the arrivals have skills local workers can't offer, but there is also evidence that employers prefer a young Pole who has had the gumption to leave home and travel in search of a job over a UK school-leaver with few skills and little enthusiasm.
It's handy - and good for the economy in the short term - for companies to be able to reach for a migrant instead of training a local worker, but it raises issues about how well the education system is preparing students for the jobs that are available in the real world. These long-term structural problems can be temporarily solved with the sticking-plaster of a few thousand incomers, but they will sap competitiveness in the longer term if they are left untackled.
Looking at Britain's economy as a whole, with high growth, low unemployment and low interest rates, the arrival of Poles and the rest seems an unequivocal bonus, helping to fill skills shortages, boosting productivity and creating new taxpayers. For almost a million workers who remain unemployed while eastern Europeans win new jobs, the analysis may look rather different. But closing the doors to Bulgarians and Romanians won't help - while better training and education might.