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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Truth About Immigration

Today's UK media carry stories that disclose - yet again - the infinite capacity of Economists for earning the contempt of the public. A think-tank, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research [habitually described by economic journalists as 'the respected NIESR' ] published a paper that asserted, unequivocally, that there is "no association" between higher immigration and the rise of joblessness in the UK.

Within a few hours the government's Migration Advisory Committee published a paper which declared that one Briton lost their job for every four non-EU migrants arriving over the past five years, which put 160,000 workers onto benefits. It also found that wage-rates for less-skilled jobs were pushed down by immigrant labour: while wages of higher-paid employees seemed to rise with immigrant numbers. This paper also indicated that further pressure would be put on living standards, particularly for the lowest-paid, because the inflow of immigrants would compete for housing [especially in London and the south-east] and cause upward pressure on rents and house prices.

Yesterday MigrationWatch - a pressure group opposed to 'excessive' immigration published its own findings, which were that: "Youth unemployment in the UK increased  by almost 450,000 from [the first quarter of] 2004  to [the third quarter of] 2011. Over the same period, numbers of workers from the A8 countries [the new entrants to the EU, who became free to enter the UK in 2004] grew by 600,000". MigrationWatch made the caveat that "Correlation is not, of course, proof of causation," but went on to make the crucial point that "given the positive employability characteristics and relative youth of migrants from these countries, it is implausible and counter-intuitive" to draw a conclusion that "A8 migration has had virtually no impact on UK youth unemployment."


Readers will have noticed that the data sets taken by the three reports are different. MigrationWatch focuses primarily on youth unemployment and the relative attractiveness to employers of the work ethic and numeracy  displayed by continentally-educated people, compared to the low literacy, negligible numeracy and unpreparedness for employment displayed by a very large proportion of young Britons [broadly regardless of ethnicity].  The government's committee compares total unemployment with the number of immigrants from outside the EU.   The NIESR took all migrants who were issued with national insurance numbers [which are a necessary condition for gaining legal employment] and compared their numbers with the pattern of unemployment among the pre-existing population. The NIESR noted also that the growth of juvenile unemployment in the UK had begun before 2004 [when A8 citizens gained full rights of entry] and reached greater heights after 2008 although east European immigration was reduced and some Poles and Slovaks went home.

Recruitment to jobs in general diminished during and after 2008 as the recession intensified. Reliable, hard-working east Europeans generally kept their jobs in greater numbers than did Brits, and the number of east European arrivals tailed off when the word reached potential migrants that opportunities in the UK had diminished.

Political correctness forbids 'decent' researchers from ascertaining which specific categories of immigrants get well-paid jobs, badly paid jobs or no jobs; beyond the differentiation between EU and non-EU that is sanctioned by the Brussels bureaucracy and the European courts. Since increasing numbers of immigrants from outside the EU obtain citizenship in other EU countries, then come to the UK, there is no implicit ethnic connotation to the EU non-EU differentiation even though the overwhelming majority of A8 migrants were white Europeans. Consequently bar-room assertions about some ethnic groups 'coming here for benefits and free houses, with no intention of working' remain untested, but the legends fester with repetition: and the political class avoid mentioning the matter even though it is a widely expressed concern 'on the doorstep' to political canvassers.

The net effect of the three reports is to serve no useful purpose: they present no clear guide for policy-makers and their different selection of data contributes to a confused cacophony that has long been characterised by the lack of any agreed basis for comparison. On this issue, quintessentially, the disparity between the dialogue that emanates from the political class and the dialogue that rumbles on among the electorate has become extreme and will some time soon create a major political problem that will tax the present generation of politicians to the all-to-apparent limits of their competency.

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