One major argument used by opponents of looser immigration laws is that immigrants—particularly low-skilled workers—will impose a fiscal burden on their new countries, taking advantage of rich countries’ generous welfare states while contributing little in taxes.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2013 International Migration Outlook (via Michael Clemens) takes an in depth look at the fiscal impact of immigration on the 34 OECD member countries, finding “an overall fiscal impact in terms of GDP that is positive but small”:
Depending on the assumptions made and the methodology used, estimates of the fiscal impact of immigration vary, although in most countries it tends to be very small in terms of GDP and is around zero on average across the OECD countries considered. The impact, whether positive or negative, rarely exceeds 0.5% of GDP in a given year.
The following chart shows the net fiscal position of immigrant households in these countries, meaning their taxes and social security contributions minus the social transfers they receive:
For the countries where the contribution is negative, the reports suggests this is because their “immigrant populations are relatively old and thus overrepresented among the population receiving pensions.” In the case of Ireland, the negative contribution applies to both immigrant and native-born households following the country’s economic crisis.