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May 10, 2013 / politicsbitesize

Blaming the symptoms not the disease

EULet’s begin this week’s blog with a thought experiment. Imagine you are trying to find a job and have been for a while now.  You have been born and raised in the UK and have enjoyed the benefits of its education system.  As a highly trained and skilled labourer you have a number of qualifications that tell prospective employers that you know what you are doing and that you will be a valuable asset to any company.

You attend an interview for a job but you are told that all the positions have been taken.  You would, undoubtedly, be disappointed.  Now envisage that you discover that the jobs you have been applying for are being given to people who have come into the UK from other countries.  Perhaps you would feel a little cheated that you have put all this effort in at school and your parents have paid taxes all these years only for ‘others’ from outside to come in and take the jobs that, you feel, are rightfully yours.  A sense of indignation and anger towards those who have ‘stolen’ your job might start to colour your outlook on society and the way in which it functions.

Eventually a political party looms into view that voices your sentiments exactly.  You feel an affiliation with a UKIP policy that promises to introduce a freeze on immigration.  The wording states that: ‘Any future immigration for permanent settlement must be on a strictly limited and controlled basis where that can clearly be shown to benefit the British people as a whole and our economy’.   You think, ‘Great! Finally there is a political party that wants to stop people being able to come here and take all our jobs.’

But in reality the problem lies directly at the feet of the employers.  It transpires that because of the skills, qualifications and the fact that you have been born in the UK you have become too expensive to employ.  The employer would HAVE to pay you a decent minimum wage, national insurance, PAYE and maybe pay into a pension fund for you: all that costs the employer time and money.  But if the company employs people who aren’t born in this country, it would be easier for them to get away with paying them shoddy wages and, in some instances, cash in hand, which bypasses the tax system. To put it simply, cheaper labour equals more profit for companies and, as private sector businesses, that is all they are out to make.

So, now imagine that you consider all the facts of the situation and you realise that it is indeed the employer that is doing you out of a job, not the immigrant working for next to nothing.  The next step in this thought process is to recognise that the employer is also stitching up the system good and proper thanks to its desire to avoid paying people and taxes properly.  Finally, it becomes clear that the latter is needed to ensure the UK’s economy grows, which in turn will stimulate an expansion in the jobs market.

According to a YouGov poll taken shortly after last week’s election, the reason why 76% of UKIP supporters voted for the party was because of their concern over immigration.  In answer to this concern the focus of the Queen’s Speech, delivered on Wednesday 8th May at the State Opening of Parliament, was the government’s planned new law to curb immigration.

Unlike the UKIP policy, which campaigns for a reduction in net migration, the government’s proposed new and improved Immigration Bill is designed to change the system.  It will ensure that businesses caught employing illegal foreign labour will face increased fines and it ‘will further reform the immigration system by tightening immigration law, strengthening enforcement powers and clamping down on those from overseas who abuse UK public services’. In effect, the new bill will be attempting to treat the cause of the disquiet over immigration rather than its symptoms, which is distinct from UKIP’s policies which actively undermine collective agreements that protect the pay, conditions and rights of all workers.


Who Needs Migrant Workers? edited by Martin Ruhs and Bridget Anderson and published by Oxford University Press ‘provides a comprehensive framework for analysing the demand for migrant workers in high-income countries’.


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