European commissioner is right: we can not let populism win ahead of facts on immigration

Vivane Reding, vice-president of the European commission, stated in a web chat last night that in the UK there is a perception of an "invasion of foreigners" coming to the UK to "steal jobs".

Vivane Reding, vice-president of the European commission, stated in a web chat last night that in the UK there is a perception of an “invasion of foreigners” coming to the UK to “steal jobs”.

“this supposed invasion of foreigners coming to the UK and stealing the jobs and stealing the social security and the health money……The fact and figures, and we all know this, show it is simply not true….I am mostly frustrated about the political leaders because what is leadership if you just try with populistic movements and populistic speech to gain votes?”

Indeed, if you were to take an overview of the UK’s press today then it would appear that all of our economic woes are due to ‘benefit scroungers’ and immigrants.

Ms Reading is right to point out that we have fallen into scapegoating immigrants, whipped up by populists such as Nigel Farage and the tabloids.

A quick look at some of the myths behind immigration illustrates as much:

‘They are taking our jobs’

This is a cry that has rung through the ages, be it the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. The historical data is undebatable that immigration helps creates jobs; the idea that employment is a zero-sum game of continual limited jobs either for immigrants or UK born workers is simply wrong.

An example of this is that in 2012 over 66 per cent of European immigration came from core EU community countries like Germany and France, providing skilled staff that are more “likely to be in higher managerial or professional occupations and they also earn 7.6 per cent (£2,035) on average more than UK workers”

In other words, the high skilled workers we need to be competitive in the world market.

To lose these young, motivated workers would be an economic disaster. As The Centre of Business Research states:

 “Tighter immigration controls will result in a loss of 2 per cent from GDP by 2050, £60billion in real terms. And without migrants from the EU helping to off-set the UK’s ageing population, government borrowing would be 0.5% higher.”

We can also see the longitudinal effects of this immigration. Again, the evidence is positive: a 30-year study found that although migrants often experienced downward mobility to begin with:

“Caribbean, Black African, Indian and Chinese young people were more likely to have found professional or managerial jobs than their white, non-migrant counterparts….Upward mobility among children from minority ethnic groups was due to their educational achievements. This suggested that migrant parents often encouraged and motivated their children to gain good qualifications”.

‘They are all on benefits’

This is counterfactual to the above evidence on jobs and not supported by data from Ian Duncan Smith’s own Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which says:

“16.6 per cent of working age UK nationals were claiming a DWP working age benefit compared to 6.6 per cent of working age non-UK nationals.”

Let’s put this another way and look at ourselves through the eyes of the immigrant. If we in the UK behaved as non-UK nationals do, the DWP working payments in benefits would be cut by over half – by over £30 billion. Over the long-term migrants are also helping to pay for our ageing population and pensions (by far the largest DWP cost).

‘Education and Health Care is at breaking point’

There is no denying that communities which have had an increase in immigration are under stress, but to blame this on the immigrants is to miss the point. Those who have come to Britain are working and paying taxes, therefore it is the government’s job to provide the extra funding to the individual schools and hospitals in that area.

This failure of government policy was highlighted by the funding (£1.5 billion) being diverted to Academy Schools “where extra places weren’t needed“.

‘Our communities are breaking down’

There is a sense of moral panic about this and this was illustrated when a Migration Observation study asked if people thought the UK had a “very big problem” with immigration. It than asked whether their own community had a “very big problem” with immigration.

Over five times as many people (38 per cent to 7 per cent) thought the UK generally had a problem but not their own community. This shows the effect the media has on those in areas that have very little immigration but who see it as a national problem.

Never has the language of our politicians been so one sided.

19 Responses to “European commissioner is right: we can not let populism win ahead of facts on immigration”

  1. Ranjit Sidhu

    Indeed JC, therefore the reason for the article- to place the forward the data and analysis that shows the positive case for immigration. Thanks for your comment

  2. EricBC

    Immigrants bring skills, work ethics, diverse cultures and lots of other great things. THEY DO NOT BRING HOUSES. London is overcrowded. There is a need for several hundred thousand houses. So, Ranjit get to Google map, mark on it the 500 square miles around London where you want the houses put – keeping in mind flood plain, green belt, food security and rising sea levels.

    Then move around the country shading in another 1000 square miles for regional housing shortages. Just play with it on Google Ranjit – a few minutes. Let the reality of the task facing us sink in. Don’t hide from it behind it righteous rhetoric. Now tell us where do you want the houses to be built?

  3. Sparky

    Ranjit Sidhu. Ask yourself how much of an impartial observer he’s likely to be in the debate.

  4. Ranjit Sidhu

    Hi Eric, This is an article on immigration so by bringing up housing i presume your supposition is that the housing shortage is only the result of immigration?

    Well my reply to that is the following:
    a. There are greater pressures on London than immigration: for example how since the 1980s and demotion of regional areas through both Labour and Conservative governments has lead to jobs, in particular in the financial sector, being centralised around London, therefore more people around London.
    b. Housing development: as I am sure you are aware is a hot topic with brown field site and empty properties a major concern
    c. The point of the article is that we must do a cost/benefit analysis of immigration – considering the pluses point out by The Centre of Business Research and the (non) benefit activities of the immigrant worker compared to the Uk resident.
    d. In some way I do agree when I make the point on education and health care can easily be inferred on housing: That infrastructure is creaking is not an issue of the immigrant but government and therefore should be treated as such.

    And finally I must disagree with your figures you seem to assume (the best I can get) that immigration needs another 1,000,000 houses, which means you assume around 3 to 4 million more immigrants, that is more than the net migration in the 35 years? So I disagree with that proposition.

    Thank you for your comments


  5. LB

    Amazing isn’t it.

    Popularism is wrong. In others words, who gives a shit about democracy, we’re going to dictate what’s going to happen.

Comments are closed.