Alex Massie Alex Massie

Immigration & Welfare Reform

Unsurprisingly, Fraser made some sound points in his two recent posts on immigration. But the main lesson, surely, to be drawn from his argument is that the problem lies with British welfare policy rather than British immigration policy? Fix the former and some of the economic concerns about the latter might be reduced.

Then again, how much of the anti-immigration argument is actually predicated upon economics? Or, to put it another way, who counts as an immigrant? I rather suspect that there aren’t too many people terribly exercised by Australians or Americans or Frenchmen or Irishmen holding down jobs in Britain. Which, if true, would lead one to suppose that the “problem” is not foreigners per se but the wrong kind of foreigner…

Actually, according to the ONS’s most recent  Labour Force Survey, you’re still more likely to have a job if you were born in Britain than if you were born outwith the UK. That is, 74.1% of British-born people of working age are employed compared to 68.4% of those born outside the UK. The demonisation of immigrants – which, just to be clear, is not something I am accusing Fraser of – holds that they are a) stealing British jobs and b) welfare scroungers. Can they really be both thieves and scroungers? This seems unlikely.

Fraser argues that “Between Q1 of 1997 and Q1 of 2009, immigrants account for 106% of new jobs in the private sector – ie, there are more new workers (1.55m) than new jobs (1.47m).”  But since one in five workers are employed by the public sector this seems a pretty arbitrary and, I would humbly hazard, a potentially distorting measurement. (Incidentally, the government now includes all RBS and Lloyds Banking Group employees as “public sector” workers.)

Consider this chart (Table 8 of this

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