Migrants make up nearly 25 per cent of UK’s top earners, says study


“A lot of the worries about migrants is about the bottom end of the distribution. But, actually, migrants are hugely prevalent at the top of the income distribution – and therefore paying more tax,” says Arun Advani, lead author of the study. (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
“A lot of the worries about migrants is about the bottom end of the distribution. But, actually, migrants are hugely prevalent at the top of the income distribution – and therefore paying more tax,” says Arun Advani, lead author of the study. (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By S Neeraj Krishna



MIGRANTS make up about a quarter of top-most paid people in the Britain, an analysis of official tax data has revealed.

The study by Warwick University academics found that about 24 per cent of 525,000 people constituting the top 1 per cent — each earning over £128,000 — were adults who had migrated to the UK.

Meanwhile, the study also found that only one among six people in low-income groups were migrants, who make up 15 per cent of the UK’s population.



These figures highlighting the financial footprint of high-income individuals moving to the UK negated notions that “migration was a drain on the economy”, said Arun Advani, the research paper’s lead author.

“A lot of the worries about migrants is about the bottom end of the distribution,” the assistant professor at the Warwick’s economics department told the Guardian.

“But, actually, migrants are hugely prevalent at the top of the income distribution – and therefore paying more tax.”



 

Advani, who is also director of the university’s inequality research centre Cage, noted that the even among the top-most 0.001 per cent of UK-based earners about four in ten were immigrants.



“I was genuinely surprised, and we spent a long time convincing ourselves that we weren’t screwing it up,” he said, referring to the findings. “But we checked and triple-checked it, and it was correct.”

Advani, who himself was born to migrants, said the analysis was based on data from HMRC, which reportedly verified the findings.

“People may not think of ‘migrants’ as being rich,” he said Advani. “But if you stop and think who are the wealthy people hanging out in Mayfair, a lot of them are not UK-born. Or if you go to Canary Wharf, you will hear a lot of voices in [other] European languages because people come here for well-paying jobs.”

Another positive trend that emerged during the research was the fast, steady growth in well-paid migrants, he noted.

According to the report titled ‘Importing inequality: Immigration and the Top 1%’, there were “52 per cent more migrants in the top 1 per cent in 2018 than in 1997, and more than twice as many in the top 0.01 per cent”.

“Almost all [85 per cent] of the growth in the UK’s top 1 per cent income share over the past 20 years can be attributed to migration,” it added.

About four in ten “best-paid bankers” were migrants, with an average earning of £383,300 before tax, the report said.

Migrants made up nearly 40 per cent of the top earners UK hospitals, with an average pay of about £160,400. prompt

In “web portal” sector, the report added, 51 per cent of top earners were migrants, who received an average pay of £259,700. Even in the professional sports zone, 31 per cent of the high-paid individuals were found to be migrants.

Advani believed the research findings would be of importance amid political deliberations on using “wealth tax” to help the British economy tide over the Covid crisis.

He cautioned that heavy taxation could prompt high-earning migrants to seek greener pastures as they “often have less to tie them to the UK than people who were born here”.

“There are a lot of high performing international people here and if you make it very unattractive for them, people worry that they might leave,” said Advani.