Immigration Policy in the UK: Biting the Hand that Feeds Us?

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 21.06.18Since the 1990s, there has been a notable increase in the popular stigmatisation of immigrants to the United Kingdom, with substantial sections of the mass media turning terms such as ‘asylum seeker’ – the usage of which was previously the prerogative of the courts or human rights NGOs – into insults to be hurled across a playground. However, perhaps the acme of this trend was not reached until very recently, when the UK government – which seemingly overnight became aware once again of its obligations under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TEFU’) – seriously considered launching an advertising campaign in the EU’s two newest (2007) members, Bulgaria and Romania, attempting to dissuade prospective (and, from no later than 1st January 2014, entirely legal) economic migrants from attempting to seek their fortunes on this shores.

The presumptions behind this line of thinking appeared to be numerous, but two in particular stood out: ‘lazy’ immigrants are a drain on the United Kingdom’s benefits system; and they will ‘flood’ into the country (immigrants never settle somewhere – they always flood it). However, unlike the policy wonks who clearly never meet an immigrant knowingly, we at Mediolana had another – and dare we say, more empirically-sound – perspective:

1. Adding Up. The Financial Times recently reproduced official government statistics showing that a mere 7% of foreign nationals resident in the United Kingdom claim working-age benefits – as opposed to 17% of British nationals. The idea that immigrants as a group move to the UK for the purposes of exploiting an ever-more parsimonious system of state aid (financial institutions excluded, natch) is simply untenable.

2. Entrepreneurial Zeal. The above-mentioned figures do not encapsulate the tiny percentage of immigrants who fill (often, though certainly not always) unproductive positions in the state bureaucracy – jobs coveted for, amongst other things, their short hours and minimal risk. Conversely, one cannot walk down a high street in reasonably-sized British town without coming across an entrepreneur – whether it be a restauranteur, shopkeeper or pizza delivery person – willing to work insane hours just to make something more of their lives.

3. Geography Lesson. Are people more likely to move to countries with which they have strong linguistic and cultural links, and where there are already substantial communities of compatriots present? Will people move to the other side of the continent to find work when they have a booming megalopolis next door?

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Filed under Business, Economics, Politics

4 responses to “Immigration Policy in the UK: Biting the Hand that Feeds Us?

  1. Whilst I disagree with governments using people’s bigotry to gain their votes, I think the UK underinvests in its underclass, and perhaps we shouldn’t be letting in the brightest and best from other countries. The country’s science, medical and finance sectors already benefit a lot from people educated abroad, and I think we find it easier to let that happen than produce more home-grown talent. We need motivation to sink money into council estates, and that won’t happen whilst we are gaining workers from Europe.

    • You make an excellent point about the need to invest in the 50% or so of the UK population that attains less than 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, and the need to stop this insane wastage. That said, there is no legal or moral basis to discriminate against workers from other parts of the EU, and companies which need skilled and/or dynamic labour now can’t be expected to wait a generation or more for the fruits of an as-yet non-existent policy.

  2. I don’t disagree with what you say, but then with that stance nothing changes. We’re being duped into having a constant debate on immigration. It keeps the educated and informed people busy, and of course the pro-racial equality people win the debate, and impact in various ways to immigration policy. ‘Reluctantly’ more educated Europeans are let in and the good people feel good, and the bad people lost; but those who needed ways to avoid having to deal with the council estates are the real winners.

    • I think that if any administrator or politician is not addressing the needs of c.50% of their population, then that is a structural problem which is not going to be solved anytime soon. It’s getting easier to see the 1945-1990 period as a blip in the otherwise generally inegalitarian, hierarchy-defined UK. That said, I can’t see the justice in punishing the entrepreneurial Europeans who do want to better themselves by introducing quotas for people who may not even want the kinds of employment being proffered.

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