The Government believe that managed migration is a valuable source of skills and labour to the British economy and there are recognised routes into the UK for those seeking to work. However, entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum, and it is important to maintain the distinction between the two.
Giving asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers permission to work would be likely to encourage asylum applications from those without a well-founded fear of persecution, hence slowing down the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and undermining the integrity of the managed migration system. Indeed, asylum intake has dropped significantly since the policy change in 2002.
This is why we do not generally allow asylum seekers to work while their claim for asylum is under consideration. The only exception is asylum seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision where this delay cannot be attributed to them. This is consistent with our obligations under the EC reception directive.
No formal estimate has been made to date. However, the Government consider that while allowing asylum seekers to work may increase tax revenue this has to be balanced finely against the very real concern that allowing employment will act as a pull factor, and that the UK may subsequently receive an increase in the number of unfounded asylum applications as a result. We also have to consider the potential that this may have to delay the processing of asylum claims which would lead to more hardship, not less and more demands on the public purse as well as an increase in exploitation by traffickers.