Speaker Bercow is right: migrants are harder workers

John Bercow is getting a lot of flack right now from the right-wing press for comments made in Romania in which he seemed to imply that EU migrants were better workers than their British counterparts.

John Bercow is getting a lot of flack right now from the right-wing press for comments made in Romania in which he seemed to imply that EU migrants were better workers than their British counterparts.

Speaking at the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest yesterday, Mr Bercow said:

“I want to underline the fact that there has been an important wave of immigrants that came to great Britain from new member states and in many cases they came with aptitudes and a commitment, an involvement we haven’t always seen in our labour force.”

Predictably the remarks were branded “outrageous” by UKIP’s Nigel Farage, while the Daily Mail quoted the concerns of several fellow Tory MPs about Mr Bercow’s suitability for the role of Speaker, questioning his “neutrality”

The problem Bercow’s critics have, however, is that regardless of how ‘controversial’ his remarks are there is something to them.

Of course, aside from anecdotal evidence it’s hard to judge whether migrants work harder or not. What is true, however, is that they are generally better educated that their British counterparts and more willing to undertake low-skilled occupations. The graph below from a 2009 study compares A8 migrants (that’s those from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland) with the indigenous UK population.

Graph7

As you can see, migrants have a higher level of education than their British counterparts but are concentrated overwhelmingly in routine and semi-routine occupations – examples perhaps of the aptitudes and commitment Bercow describes.

Migrants also tend to put more into the collective pot than their British counterparts, as this graph from the same study shows.

Migrants graph

As the study makes clear:

“The key results are that in each fiscal year since enlargement in 2004, A8 immigrants made a positive contribution to public finance. For instance, in the latest fiscal year, 2008-09, A8 immigrants paid 37 per cent more in direct or indirect taxes than they received in public goods and services.”

In 2009 year, immigrants from Poland and other Eastern European countries made up 0.91 per cent of the population, commanded 0.60 per cent of government expenditure and contributed 0.96 per cent of government revenues.

Harder workers? Who knows. Aptitudes and a level of commitment often greater than the indigenous population? Certainly.

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