The British public are lead to resent migrants through a manufactured concern over an imagined scarcity of resources, jobs, and opportunities, despite the thousands of unfilled vacancies in public services such as the NHS and the care sector. So successful has this narrative been, that the Labour Party has been compelled to join the anti-migrant rhetoric, despite being the traditional political voice of the public sector and minorities.
Can we afford migration to the UK?
Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, asserted that Labour would target reducing immigrant numbers. This would be achieved, she said, by upskilling the existing UK workforce to fill the job vacancies in essential services like the NHS. The contradiction here is obvious. Why should the UK public resent the people emigrating here, who will ultimately help to secure the British standard of living? Data shows that migrants pay more in taxes and national insurance than they receive in tax credits and child benefits. If we need workers and the government cannot attract people to take the jobs, why not welcome immigrants with open arms, provide training to carry out the tasks required and offer employment like any other British citizen?
It is not a matter of affordability for the UK government. The treasury can create the spending for any bill passed in parliament. As monopoly issuer of the pound, the UK government is never financially constrained. If immigrants can be provided with jobs for the benefit of wider society, the capital can be created to pay the new workers. The real UK national wealth and the standard of living of the population rise as a result. Contrary to media representations and popular belief, migration brings a positive net fiscal contribution to the UK economy.
What Yvette Cooper does not appear to consider, is that the UK has a finite population. Any reduction in quantity or quality of service provided by the NHS reflects a proportional drop in UK living standards. Therefore, to protect the UK living standards, which includes ensuring a sufficient supply of healthcare staff, ambulance drivers or cleaners to provide an adequate level of care in our national health service, there can be no free market if immigration is to be cut.
Employment targets are essential to ensure that the public sector can acquire all forms of skilled or unskilled labour, leaving it then to the private sector to compete for whoever is left to hire. The irony here, is that this could be viewed as traditional Labour Party manifesto policy pre-New Labour.
Gains and losses
The most destructive aspect of immigration is the loss of productive output to the host nation. The negative impact is felt, whatever the academic prowess of the emigrating individual, but is most acute when gifted graduates or skilled operators leave for foreign shores. The standard of living allowed to the host nation is depleted for the benefit of foreign populations when doctors or scientists emigrate.
The flip side is true for the reception nation when a working age person or young family choose to make the UK their home. In a country with a falling birth rate, thousands of job vacancies in crucial sectors of the economy, and a rising number of pensioners, it seems self-defeating to be turning anyone away. Every potential worker is a valuable resource; even in economic downturns, when the private sector is laying off staff due to lack of demand, the government can absorb any of these unemployed resources and offer work.
The ‘illegal immigrants’ so easily dismissed by Suella Braverman in her speech to the Conservative conference this week, are often escaping warzones, poverty, or hopelessness. These people are motivated to make the most of any opportunity that life presents them. A matter of months ago, embedded in a community and nation they had known and contributed to all their life, there was little thought of fleeing as refugees to a foreign land.
Making a new home
The Ukrainian refugees living in Scotland today, are grateful for the safety and security granted to them, however, many would much rather be ‘home’ in a safe, secure Ukraine. They have the same patriotic and cultural attachment to their country as Scots have for their cities, lochs, and glens. As beautiful as Scotland is it will never match the Ukraine they were forced to leave.
Fate and hope send migrants in the direction of the UK. The economic case for acceptance of these immigrants by the British authorities is irrefutable. The UK requires more productive working age citizens. The people applying for asylum are generally of working age and motivated to repay the nation affording them a new start, with whatever contribution their employment requires. Any productive contribution is a benefit to the adoptive community.
Cultural differences can be perceived as barriers or, alternatively as an opportunity to learn, depending on the outlook of the beholder. Whatever these ethnic traditions display to the community around them, nations from every cultural background unite around common sentiments on the rights of the global population. The ordinary people in every country strive for peace, stability and a decent standard of living and are willing to do what they can to secure these values.
A need for honest reflection
The culture proudly and sentimentally adhered to by people making this country their home is a comfort blanket. Although, as Braverman points out, these differences run parallel to UK culture and this need not be divisive. The parallel tracks run in the same direction. The more that the people of the UK pay attention to the positive aspects of other cultures and recognise where the tracks converge, the more the distance between these lines will diminish. The reception country will always be culturally dominant as traditions are guided by climate and the seasons, popular culture and religious festivals and beliefs.
Humanity, as a species, is perhaps too immature to progress to this level of sophistication yet. The scarcity narrative encourages a self-interested hoarding that is symptomatic of the juvenile instincts of those in positions of power and influence. Like hedonistic teenagers, with their exuberant sense of immortality they pick fights, buy-up scarce resources to create monopolies, play games with world finances and selfishly manipulate democracy to facilitate their will, with careless disregard for the distribution of assets to the global masses and the resulting impoverishment, climate repercussions and inequality.
Perhaps we can only effectively tackle these issues when as a nation we address our cultural fears and misconceptions, taking an honest look at the economic reality.
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