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.

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

  1. Ranjit Sidhu

    Thank you Sparky.

    By that comment you have convinced of the premise of this article: That it is not driven by facts, but by emotions.

    p.s Remind me not to ask you about electricity – obviously biased.

  2. LB


    Post some numbers that can be checked.

    There are two approaches.

    First to use averages. Does the average migrant pay their way?

    First you have to decide if you’re going to take a racist view. Are migrants better than Brits? My view, no difference.

    So the average government spend is 11.5K a year (722 bn / 63 million), On top for adults of working age you need another 5K to cover the cost of their state pension. 1/30th for each year working, for a pension that currently costs 146K to supply.

    Oh dear, median wage is 26K, and that’s not enough to cover the costs. Remember the bit about being racist? Are migrants better than brits or not?

    Not that the DWP, teh CBR, or the CREAM report will ever give numbers of costings that can be checked. The CREAM report assumes that Brits pay all the fixed costs and migrants get them for free for example.

    Or you can go the individual route. No doubts there are quite a few migrants who more than pay their way, see the average numbers above.

    However, lets take one example on the other end. Barrista in Starbucks on min wage.

    A min wage job. That’s 6.31 an hour.

    So we need to know what taxes are paid.

    Tax due £572.90
    National Insurance £546.78

    Heck, lets even throw in employer’s NI

    Employers NI £635.97

    They are taking home


    Now, on that wage, you aren’t paying much VAT, because almost all of your wages are going on Food and Housing.

    So what do we need to break even.

    There is no way that the starbucks barista is paying there way.

    Perhaps then they generate lots of profits for starbucks and starbucks pays lots of tax in the UK to make up the short fall.

    Nope they don’t either.

    So there are plenty of examples of migrants who don’t pay their way.

    On average they don’t pay their way either.

    The solution is to keep and welcome more who do. Stop those who don’t from entering and remove those already here that don’t.

    Very simple solution that’s non racist, based purely on the financials.

    Since those migrants who are paying their way will not be on welfare, they won’t be consuming resources the poor need. They won’t cost other people money. They won’t be in social housing. They won’t compete against NEETS who should be getting jobs at Starbucks. etc.

    Meanwhile we’ve the completely dictatorial approach by the left, which is we don’t give two hoots about the electorate, we don’t need democracy, we’re going to dictate to the population and the can suffer the consequences.

  3. LB

    PS. You’re about the only poster of an article who has engaged in discussion. For that you need to be congratulated.

    A real pity then that you want to dictate to people and not give them a democratic choice and instead just go against the majority.

  4. Sparky

    If you want the real facts about immigration, you should watch the Nick Robinson documentary on BBC ‘The Truth About Immigration’ which finally allows real people to speak about their experience of the 500% increase in immigration levels under Labour.

    Incidentally, there’s nothing emotional about my previous post. It makes the very logical point that since either yourself or more likely your parents were probably immigrants to the UK, it is fair to say that your family has considerably benefited from a move from a poor country like India to a wealthy one like the UK. That’s not emotional, it’s a statement of probable fact. And in light of that, I’m inviting people to consider whether your statements on immigration are likely to be entirely impartial. I think not. It is highly likely that you would wish others from your parents’ country of origin to have the same opportunity to better themselves that your family has had. Curtailing immigration is inconsistent with that.

  5. amber thomas

    Hi. Four points I’d like to make.
    Firstly, the starbucks barrista scenario shows the effect of low wages on the feasibility of many workers providing net benefit to the economy. A living wage would mean employers business models have to support economic growth and not just corporate capital.
    Secondly, we have a looming generational crisis of care for the elderly. I’d like to see more central planning to train and reward the a workforce of carers from the uk and beyond. How else will a working population handle such a large proportion of non working elderly? Immigration can help.
    Thirdly, I am third gen immigrant but there’s no way commenters could know that from my name. We all have “bias” regarding immigration because we all have a stake in the approach taken to immigration.
    Fourth and last: we only get significant upwards social mobility in times of economic growth. Where waves of immigrants have prospered it is because the economy is growing. They did not “steal” growth, they fuelled it, and we all benefit. We are not in a period of growth but we need some big thinking to get us jumpstarted, that’s what we should be worrying about.

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