Sunday, October 30, 2005
Are migrants taking our jobs?
Posted by David Smith at 11:00 AM
Category: David Smith's other articles

Immigration has undeniably been a good thing for Britain’s economy, according to conventional wisdom. It has brought new talent and dynamism to these shores, and it has helped the economy in other ways. That, up to now, has certainly been my view.

The Treasury says that immigration, by increasing the growth of the labour force, also raises the economy’s long-term or “trend” rate of growth.

The Bank of England, in an assessment of immigration’s impact in its most recent inflation report in August, concluded that the arrival of new workers had the beneficial effect of acting as a job-market safety valve, reducing pay pressures.

One of the recent economic puzzles had been the surprisingly benign behaviour of wages given low unemployment, it said. One reason, reported by its own regional agents, was that employers were increasingly turning to migrant workers to ease labour shortages.

There is certainly plenty of immigration. Official figures released earlier this month showed that a record 582,000 people came to Britain last year, up from 513,000 in 2003.

There were also 359,000 departures last year, slightly down on the 361,000 recorded in 2003. Net migration into Britain was thus 223,000, the highest since the present method of compilation began in 1991, up from 151,000 in 2003.

More Britons leave than return — a record 208,000 departures in 2004 compared with only 88,000 arrivals. In contrast, 342,000 more non-British people arrived than left. Britain has become a magnet for arrivals from the new European Union members in eastern Europe.

Now, however, there is tentative economic evidence that this process may have gone a little too far. The other labour-market puzzle has been in the unemployment statistics. Every month this year the claimant count has risen. The rise is not huge, amounting to just over 60,000 in total, but it is the first such sustained rise in 12 years, and a blot on a successful labour-market record.

At the same time, however, employment continues to grow, by 345,000 over the past year, according to the Labour Force Survey, and by 150,000 workforce jobs, according to employer-based numbers. How can you have simultaneously rising employment and unemployment?

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), has combined the official figures with his own organisation’s surveys and suggests that at least part of the answer lies with immigration.

“Unemployment has risen in the past year not because more people have been joining the count — in fact slightly fewer have done so — but because fewer people are leaving,” he said.

“The reason for this is evident in our own quarterly survey evidence. It shows that when it comes to recruitment, benefit claimants, many of whom are not immediately job ready, are losing out to other jobseekers, in particular growing numbers of immigrant workers.”

The cry, “They’re taking our jobs” has always been the crudest argument used by those opposing immigration. But at present it seems to be true, at least in part. The unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed, may be less attractive to employers than bright immigrants with a built-in work ethic.

Anybody who questions the beneficial effects of immigration runs the risk of being accused of being further to the right than Genghis Khan. The Tories thought they were striking a popular chord with their election slogan earlier this year: “It’s not racist to want to control immigration.” But the poster slogan, used in areas with high immigrant populations, was regarded by many voters as distasteful and extreme.

The Tories lost and David Cameron, who helped to design the campaign, no doubt learnt a lesson. But you do not have to be right-wing to ask the question.
I was struck by a piece in The Guardian on October 11 by Polly Toynbee, who is some way to the left of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Migrants, she said, kept down the wages of low-paid workers, reinforced the gap between rich and poor, and boosted company profits.

“This is what globalisation does, widening the gap between rich and poor,” she wrote. “Cheap labour provides more cheap services for the rich to get their lifestyle at a premium while nailing an ever-larger swathe of the workforce to the minimum-wage floor.”

Although she approaches it from a different direction, you could not put a cigarette paper between her views and those of Migration Watch, the pressure group.

David Coleman, professor of demography at Oxford University, is an honorary consultant to Migration Watch. In The Economic Efffects of Immigration into the United Kingdom, a paper he wrote jointly last year with Bob Rowthorne of Cambridge University, he concluded that the overall economic benefits were negligible and outweighed by other negative effects.

“We conclude that the economic consequences of large-scale immigration are mostly trivial, negative or transient; that the interests of more vulnerable sections of the domestic population may be damaged; and that any small fiscal or other economic benefits are unlikely to bear comparison with immigration’s substantial and permanent demographic and environmental impact,” it said.

Even if one chooses not to go that far, immigration does present a dilemma. When unemployment is falling, it performs a useful, even vital function. When the jobless total is rising, the situation gets more cloudy.

It is possible to envisage a situation, indeed, where the employees of choice are those from other countries, even when unemployment is high in Britain.

What would the response be to that? In policy terms the answer has to be to improve the skills of the unemployed, and of those under threat of being displaced by migrant workers.

There would not, however, be anything that we could do as a country to stop immigrants, particularly those from other parts of the European Union, from coming here. Food for thought, especially if slow growth is going to be around for a while.

PS Beware: women’s skirts are getting longer

There is the “Victorian lady” look, with piecrust blouses and ankle-length skirts. Then there is the below-the-knee pencil skirt, worn to accentuate natural curves. And knee-length culottes have appeared.

Lest you think you have wondered into the wrong section by mistake, there is a serious point to all this. Several correspondents have pointed out to me that skirts are getting longer. On investigation I can confirm that this is indeed the case.

The “hemline” indicator of economic and stock-market fortunes is one of the most keenly watched. When miniskirts are in vogue (and in Vogue) you can say with some certainty that the economy has legs. By contrast, the lengthening of skirts is usually the harbinger of a downturn.

In Britain we spend more than £10 billion a year on beauty products, proof perhaps that the lipstick indicator, devised by the head of Estee Lauder, is alive and well. Lipstick sales go up in times of trouble because slapping on a bit of cherry red is a cheaper way of looking good than a new outfit.

But let us not despair. The Boston Snow indicator — a white Christmas in that city guarantees a good stock market the following year — may have its British equivalent. The Met Office has warned us to expect a harsh winter, so we might even get a snowy Christmas. Meanwhile, my skip index is in good shape. The skips in my street have reappeared in numbers in recent months, normally the first cuckoo of economic spring.

From The Sunday Times, October 30 2005



My business trains and brings Polish people to the UK where we place them in low skill/blue collar jobs. So far we have brought over 500 workers to the UK. 300 have been placed as Bus drivers in Gateshead, the rest have been placed as holiday park caravan cleaners, care home workers, wheel clampers and LGV drivers.

First of all in relation to Polly Toynbee's article on immigration workers to which you referred, I will point out that none of these workers have been employed for the benefit of the rich. The rich do not holiday in caravan parks in the UK nor do they travel on buses.

If we can get over the bigotry that underpins her views, the points that she made are largely true, they are indeed now replacing UK workers because mainly of their attitude to work. I would also add that most of the Polish workers also send large amounts of their wages back to Poland.

Best Regards

Nick Leslie-Miller
146 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9TR
0207 881 5690

Posted by: Nick Leslie-Miller at October 31, 2005 10:03 AM
This is LONDON
By Alan Sugar, Daily Mail, 10/06/05 - Business section

THE FACT that we are now relying on bus drivers from Eastern Europe to shore up our public transport is a national disgrace. But I extend the warmest of welcomes to the new recruits.
The disgrace lies with the British workers who now refuse to take what they consider 'menial' jobs such as bus driving, forcing employers to look outside the country.
You can be sure the 400 drivers from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - another 600 will follow later in the year - taken on by the country's largest bus company, the First group,
have a completely different attitude and I'm full of admiration for them.
They will come here and work damn hard for less money than lazy Brits demand. They will master the language, their wives will go out to work and save furiously for their children's educations.
You won't catch them squandering their earnings down the pub and I'll take a bet with you that in 20 years' time some of their children will be business leaders sustaining the British economy.
In fact, the men and women from Eastern Europe who are flocking here to work remind me of the Asian immigrants of the Sixties and Seventies, and the Jewish immigrants of the Forties. Both
of those ethnic minority groups came to Britain with the express desire to work and provide for their families.
They toiled uncomplainingly around the clock, stressed the value of education to their children, and now some of those boys and girls are the entrepreneurs of today.
And as for the unemployed whingers who will no doubt soon be moaning that the Poles have taken their jobs - just as they did about the Asians in years gone by - I have no sympathy for them.
The truth is they don't want to work. There have always been people who had the brains to be lawyers and doctors and accountants, and those who didn't.
The difference is, where once the less clever people took great pride in manual work and trades, now they don't. They just can't be bothered and prefer to sponge off the state. The work ethic
has been consigned to history.
It was very different when I started out.
I grew up on a council estate in Hackney, East London, and joined the Civil Service. I packed it in when I realised I could make a better go of things working for myself and I became a salesman
flogging car aerials. With the money I made I went on to found Amstrad, my electronics company.
My parents - my father was a tailor and my mother worked hard to bring up four children - instilled in me the strongest of work ethics, and in everything I have done I have grafted hard because
I knew no other way.
But in my day that wasn't unusual. We all worked hard. When I started out, the plumber or builder or labourer who couldn't find a job took whatever employment there was, whether that was
driving a bus or sweeping the street. Today's unemployed don't want to do a job for £200 a week. They'll only get off their backsides for £500.
Instead, they'd rather scam the social security system and do a bit of moonlighting on the side to make up the money.
I have no problem with people who aspire to better things - a more fulfilling job, a bigger salary or better lifestyle.
But everyone has to start somewhere. I think the unemployed should set their sights a little lower and begin with an honest day's graft. Then, if they have the ability, they can work their way up or
set up on their own as I did.
Sadly, most people are too complacent for that; there is no shame in being out of work, nor is there any hunger to be self-sufficient.
The reason for this is twofold. In the first instance our generous social security system fosters that attitude, and secondly, the workplace is being strangled by EU legislation governing worker and
human rights.
As long as the Government continues to pay higher rates of unemployment benefit than many people can earn working five days a week, a certain section of society will always take advantage of it.
There is work out there, but people don't want to do it, so they sign on and when they are offered a job they don't want to take, they turn up, pay lipservice and ask their prospective employer to fill
in a form saying they were unsuitable for the position. Then they just saunter back to the social security office and collect their next benefit cheque.
As far as I'm concerned, unless there is a medical reason why a person cannot work, he or she should be in employment. Anyone still claiming benefits after three months without a job should have
their benefits stopped and be forced to work.
The figures speak for themselves: there are 1.4m people unemployed in this country, yet we have more than 1,000 bus drivers' jobs lying vacant. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The cushion of the welfare state is also to blame for the shortage of skilled and manual labour in Britain. This means that people who once opted for these trades prefer now to rely on the state.
No wonder there are huge numbers of Eastern European plumbers, builders, carpenters and labourers over here filling the gap. I think it's time the Government addressed the problems that an
over-generous welfare system has created.
The building trade is a classic example of an industry that could benefit from a modern apprenticeship system, which the Government could subsidise.
Instead of money being given away in benefits, unemployed youths should be told to report for work at their local building site and receive their benefits (as pay) that way.
But first we need to tackle the preoccupation with human rights which EU legislation has conferred on us. Modern workplaces are restricted by so much red tape they can't get on with the job in hand.
Most companies now employ lawyers who spend their whole time agonising over whether the temperature is correct and the environment pleasing enough for the employees.
Understandably, this sends out the wrong message about what is really important in business and fosters a culture of laziness.
Eastern European workers haven't had their minds poisoned in the way ours have by an obsession with human rights legislation.
Until we address these two problems, we will continue to breed a nation of workshy layabouts. And as long as we do, the only solution to our employment crisis will be to recruit from elsewhere.
Speaking as an employer, faced with a hungry, diligent Eastern European and a lazy, unmotivated Brit, I know which one I would rather employ.
Sir Alan's fee for this article has been donated to charity.

Posted by: The Honky at November 8, 2005 10:15 AM

At a time of near full-employment skilled immigration helps the UK cope with labour shortages, but deprives poorer countries of some of their brightest and best-educated people. At times when we have significant unemployment - which is most of the time - immigration just provides more competition for British workers at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale, many of whom are black or asian, and lengthens the dole queues. In the meantime our population grows and competition for space and housing gets more intense in an already overcrowded country.

There are some good things about PC, but it prevents a rational discussion about immigration because anyone against it is branded a racist. We have surrendered our border controls to the EU, and if Turkey ever gets in we will have a vast influx of migrants from what will be the most populous and poorest EU member which will dwarf the Polish plumber syndrome, with effects on the UK's prosperity and social cohesion which can only be too readily imagined.

Posted by: bears all at November 9, 2005 09:32 AM

I work in the boston area in lincolnshire in the agricultural industry, and it is getting harder and harder to get employment simply because the factorys and farmers want cheap labour. one example of this being the case is when going to these people and places for a job the first thing they say is sorry only foreign workers are wanted. Its easy to say they do the jobs we dont want, that is not the case anymore there doing the jobs we,[ british nationals] want, any other country would make sure that there own nationals were not being put out of work by immigrants, tony blair and his crowneys dont give a damn about people like myself. They aint going to have there jobs snatched away from them by european immigrants are they, I am not racist in anyway but this goverment is pushing us to become racist, on your heads be it mr blair and his crowneys.

Posted by: wayne butler at August 2, 2006 11:08 AM

I work in the automotive industry and in recent years have seen a large influx of eastern european workers. Some of these have been given permanent full time jobs while British agency workers were not taken on. The British workers were no less hard working or concientious yet were thrown on the scrapheap. I find it unbelievable how people who have lived here all of their lives are treated like this. It is making the British people resentful of the migrant workers. I am not a politition or a journalist,or a racist, just an ordinary working class man who sees what is happening first hand. Mr Blair and his government simply do not care because they know that an immigrant worker will never take their jobs!

Posted by: adam brown at November 16, 2006 04:17 PM

Thanks. Yesterday's figures showed a 263,000 rise in unemployment over the past year, at a time when employment is still growing, so there is clearly an effect. The government, you'll have seen, has decided to restrict job market entry to Romanians and Bulgarians. Have a look at the discussion forum (click on the left hand side of the main page) - there's been a debate running on this subject. To take part, registration is easy and free.

Posted by: David Smith at November 16, 2006 08:19 PM

is true all about polish are here the kings for labour and soon on all jobs polish people take all jobs to the e.u workers and dhem use russans fake passportes sold from poland and give 90 pounds per week off course dis people can not go to police alll mafia around and geting too much money drivers hgv polish are ander fake licence drivers only need 4 hours too learn to drive so all uk came down because polish are 50 000 000 so imagine 30% here alot alot more to tell but im just one polish ho see all around and gla licence are sleeping all day long boston and spalding are more 1000 russans work on the fields so weak weak

Posted by: mark at September 7, 2007 04:12 PM

Alan Sugar's claptrap doesn't deserve to be published, but it is typical of the fear and loathing that middle-class Brits feel for the social class of Brits below them. French peasants are charming, but our own proletariat is beneath contempt. So let's bring in as many foreigners as we can, keep wages amongst the lowest in Europe, and take every opportunity to slag off those who aren't gushingly grateful for being allowed to earn starvation wages in the country their forefathers fought for.

Posted by: Paul at November 17, 2007 12:13 AM

I was employed by a UK recruitment company. I worked with
other British people on te same contract. One day we were
told that our 'ongoing' assignemt would finish at the end of that
week (we had been previously assured to expect the work to
continue for a period of some weeks). We were replaced by
workers from Slovakia (we actually met them on our last day).
They were being brought over from Slovakia by a Slovakian
agency who had a business partnership with our UK agency.
They would be paid LESS than the UK minimum wage and would
be paid directly through the Slovak tax system into Slovak bank

After this happened the work via our UK agency 'dried up'.

This is happening all over the country. Do not be fobbed off with
the sneering attitude of the ignorant and uneffected that people
who accuse foreign workers of taking their jobs are 'lazy' or
(the stock New Labour/Parliamentary rebuff) 'the immigrants do
jobs that UK nationals do not wish to do. This is a cop-out and
not completely accurate.

I am currently claiming JSA since the 'Lehman moment' crunch
etc of last September 08. Obviously the recession is not a result of
the influx of foreign labour however - I have experienced many
times since then the scenario of calling a UK employment agency
to have the phone answered by a person with a slavic accent
telling me in halting english that 'there is nothing at the moment'.
I go into other job agencies and fill out a registration card, to be
finally informed of the same state-of-play by a Polish or Czech
'consultant'. On more than one occasion the meeting is a little
rushed and distracted as they have Poles/Czechs etc waiting in the
lobby to be briefed on the details of their next assignment.

If you are interested in the reality of the current migrant-worker
situation, you should recognise this is happening and has been
for some time.

best regards.

Posted by: Matt at September 15, 2009 12:02 AM

I work with a lot of polish workers, both agency and full time like myself in a food factory. They seem keen when they are with the agency but once they get a full time permanent position working directly for the company they change and don't want to work. Then as there is more full time polish workers they stick together and claim discrimination when the supervisors try to get them to do their jobs as they are supposed to like the rest of us. they take the piss on tea breaks and nothing gets done about it etc. The only people who are in favor of this mass immigration are the wealthy and employers who want cheap labour. As somebody else wrote most of them are sending a lot of money back to poland so its not staying in the british economy and therefore not helping britain.Its not that british people don't want to work or don't want the jobs its just the polish are being given the jobs instead.Why can't this country wake up and start looking after the interests of british people and think about the damage all this influx of people is doing to the enviroment and peoples lives. British workers are just as good, there are some lazy people in all cultures. I have worked with some very lazy and disrespectful poles. The wealthy just think of themselves with the attitude bugger you i'm ok, when they should think more about people less fortunate than themslves and the vulnerable people in our society. One government representative from australia said they look after their vulnerable people ,such as unskilled workers by controlling immigration we should have done the same.I am not rascist just don't want my life ruined if i can't get a job

regards joe

Posted by: joe smith at September 6, 2011 10:53 PM