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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Immigration, l’économie tord le cou aux fantasmes

by Clotilde Mathieu

Economic Statistics Explode Fantasies About Immigration

Translated Saturday 14 May 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Several surveys about immigrants show that the French economy gets more out of immigrants than immigrants themselves receive. They might even have “absorbed” the social shock of the crisis.

Nicolas Sarkozy espouses the views of the National Front and suddenly reneges on his “green card” immigration policy. “Considering how difficult it is to provide jobs for all our nationals and in view of the 23% unemployment rate among non-Community foreigners, we cannot but ask whether legal immigration makes sense.” Xavier Chojnicki, an INED researcher [1], co-author of a survey on the costs of immigration for the French economy, exposes the fallacy of these fantasies. “This passionate debate about foreigners periodically revives, swells and eventually slips out of control,” he observes confidently: statistics prove his point. Whereas the yearly number of fresh arrivals (of foreigners born outside France) in the 1920s averaged 300,000, the number of immigrants now averages 100,000 at most, far less than in other developed countries like the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, Spain or even Italy.

Another finding in these surveys is that immigrants receive far less than they pay out. In 2009, for instance, 12.4 billion euro flowed into the State’s coffers thanks to immigrants. If France spent 47.9 billion euro on social and family benefits, foreigners, as wage-earners and consumers, paid 3.4 billion euro in income taxes, 18.4 billion in VAT and other consumption taxes, and 26.4 billion in social contributions…

Another false argument floated to feed fears is that immigrants take French people’s jobs. “Immigrants take the vast majority of jobs French people will not take,” Xavier Chojnick explains. The figures in his survey are damning: 90% of French motorways were and are still built and maintained by foreign labour. More than half the number of hospital doctors in the suburbs are foreign or foreign-born. No less than 42% of cleaning firms workers are immigrants. As Didier Gelot, author of another report in number 99 of Politiques sociales et familiales wrote in the financial daily les Échos, “as the economic crisis really set in, immigrants absorbed the shock across the whole labour market, which enabled native French people to maintain a relatively more favourable position.

[1National Institute for Demographic Studies

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