Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Immigration and Employment
Nigel Farage insists that Ukip is not recist, merely concerned for the efects that immigration has job opportunities for we Brits.
Well, I suppose there are a number of high-flying bankers, including Adair Turner perhaps, who are a bit miffed that the Governorship of the Bank of England has gone to a migrant. However, Mark Carney is White and for all I know may also be Anglo-Saxon and Proetestant, and maybe Canadians don't count in Ukip's lexicon of migrants: more like kissing counsins.
Similarly there may be some top-notch business executives who wince when a lucrative chief executive post goes to a foreigner, but this cohort use the international nature of their calling to justify the enormous “compensation” they demand, so they can’t expect to have it both ways. (Polly Toynbee has repeatedly pointed out, though, that the international demand for British executives is not all that high).
The international market of academic posts is surely seen as a plus rather than a minus, and UK academics are in a strong position in this market because so much of the World's higher education is in English.
At the more modest levels the situation is by no means as clear-cut as Ukip and the tabloids would like us to think. Immigrants are, by definition, much more geographically mobile that native workers. They have, often temporarily, cut their ties with their home countries and so are unlikely to be particularly bothered as to where they work in the UK. So they take jobs, sometimes for short periods only, where native workers, with perfectly understandable family ties and local connections, may be reluctant to move.
Immigrant workers are for the most part young and healthy so make few demands on the welfare and health services, and probably pay their taxes much more dutifully than some international companies. They add to demand so create jobs (plenty Polish grocery stores have sprung up in my area in the past few years, adding further to the cornucopia of Asian outlets and restaurants which have been established for much longer) and many repatriate part of their earnings to relatives back home; a plus for our balance of payments (which no longer receives anything like the attention it should.)
There can be no doubt that some migrants take jobs which could have gone to native workers, but the major cause of domestic unemployment is lack of demand, which the government should be, but is not, tackling. Rather the reverse.
Two positive economic actions which should be taken by the government in relation to migrant workers are:
a) Much stricter regulation of the ominously named “gangmasters.”
b) Much more energetic policing to ensure the payment of the minimum wage, if not the living wage.
Maybe these will feature in today's Queen's Speech.