Immigration really has got itself a bad name, it’s to blame for everything from terrorism to trade figures, you name it, it woz immigration wot dunnit. Failing public services? It’s immigration it must be, I heard someone talking Polish in the queue for Greggs. Look at unemployment, they’re coming over here and taking our jobs. Look at the costs of benefits that has to be down to immigration. Let’s ignore the contradiction of simultaneously taking our jobs and being unemployed at the same time, let’s look at the consequences, that’s always fun. What are we wishing for? The latest figures are out today and it’s good news if you want the numbers down. The net figure is 248,000 a fall of 84,000. I am going to assume that the current official (ish) target of ten’s of thousands means circa 100k and that’s acceptable to everybody. It isn’t?
Ok let’s have a look at UKIP policy and a zero target for the next five years. He is offering a one in one out policy described with glorious lack of detail in the link. The basic plan is too reduce gross immigration by around 250,000, ie the gross figure we have today and the policy will introduce an Australian style points system, to favour the high skilled. Under UKIP’s plans, unskilled and low-skilled labour would be banned for five years while skilled workers and students would need visas based on the points system. So does it work? Well, if you discount the accusations of Amenesty International and Human Rights Watch it seems to. Immigration is up slightly to a net 185,000 but under control. Their country, their way, not the subject of this blog. What would this mean in the UK?
I can’t see how this is practical for the UK. We have no control over those that leave the UK they could be anybody, doing anything. It takes little imagination to come up with potential problems. My first problem is with the ban on un/low skilled workers, any that leave cannot be replaced and they come and go all the time. A good thing too some may say, what about all our own unemployed? Let’s take one example, picking fruit, why can’t our own do it instead? Well for a start the vast majority would be in the wrong place, how would they get there? Yes, fruit picking is relatively low skill but have you tried it? A common experience is picking your own strawberries. A lovely half day out, lot’s of nature, yummy strawberries and exercise. Now think doing this day in, day out to production targets. You need to be at the peak of physical fitness, prepared for appalling accommodation and lousy wages. They’re OK if you’re exhanging those pounds for a weaker currency but don’t begin to cover the costs of property prices and rent in the UK. This looks a non starter to me so I’ll leave it to others to expand on it.
So, this brings us to current policy and the first subject I’d like to tackle is students. The Conservatives insist they be included in the official measure but why? Seriously, does anyone really believe they should be included? Yes employers trip over each other to employ them so they’re clearly no burden, they’re young, bright and assimilated what’s not to like? The majority go home and do great good for their own countries who need their newly acquired skills. So not only a great source of talent but a money spinner too, £25 billion worth if you don’t mind, it’s an act of economic vandalism to put this in jeopardy, madness. It’s not just that either the number exaggerates immigration figures poisoning public debate. The student numbers should be removed from the official count and recorded elsewhere. We should continue to carefully police bogus students as the system can be abused but we have made great strides forward in this area since 2014.
I’d also liken to touch very briefly on the old canard “immigration cuts wages”, this is spoken of in very hard (well ‘ard?) tones as immutable fact set in stone. I’ll be brief because I will write about this more. In a nutshell immigration does not cut wages except in a tiny proportion, all expert opinion conforms this. Jonathan Portes is a very experty expert indeed he puts the figure at between 1-2% at the bottom of the pay scale. No such relationship exists at all the higher you go. Some reports put the a bit higher but what interests me is how that “small effect” is distributed, is it across the board, or uneven meaning the difference between having a job or not.
It seems to surprise experts that the more vanilla areas of the UK seem more vehemently anti-immigration. I’m surprised at their surprise. Basic anthropology and psychology shows we have a preference for our own “tribe” and have little interaction with others. Growing up in Lytham St-Annes, about as vanilla as you can get, I didn’t have my first interracial experience until I went to university in my late thirties. I don’t even remember it as an experience, we were all there to get our degree, enter the workplace and get on. The colour of anyone’s skin was never discussed we just lived. I struggled with facial recognition for a while but soon learnt, for example, to distinguish Beijing born Chinese from Shanghai or from the South East of China. Nothing unusual there I hope, I just had met any Chinese people.
The whole subject has been politicised, we have been appalling led and the direction has meant we have become nastier. Todays immigration figures show a lot of Europeans are going home or moving on. These, I’m afraid, won’t be the non-existent benefit tourists of popular myth, these will be hard working people we have betrayed by taking away their security. There are really only two proven ways of reducing immigration in a free trade world, people will always move to prosperity. The first way is to build walls just like Trump. But he hasn’t built a wall you may argue and you’d be wrong. Immigration to the US is down just by threatening to build. The price is the US has become a nastier place to live in just like the UK. And the second and best way to reduce immigration? This one’s a cracker, crash the economy. Immigration is a natural sign of prosperity.
My verdict is that wasn’t immigration wot dun it, everything, (almost) blamed on immigration is the result of poor domestic policy, austerity and terrible investment decisions. Poor leadership and wrong direction.
PS: Comments are very welcome here I’d love to see more.