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By Philippe Legrain 1 COMMENT

The Daily Mail claimed yesterday that “nearly every one of 1.67m jobs created since 1997 has gone to a foreigner“. Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green claimed that there were almost 730,000 fewer British-born workers in the private sector than in 1997. Andrew Green, of the MigrationWatch pressure group, said: “The government’s economic case for mass immigration is finally blown out of the water.”

In fact, these selective statistics are highly misleading. The Mail failed to mention that the figure of 1.67 million new jobs refers to people of working age (16-64 for men, 16-59 for women). Why exclude older workers? Green focuses on private-sector jobs among people of working age. Why exclude public-sector jobs and older workers? Both confused “foreign-born people” with recent immigrants. Yet many people who were born abroad have been here for a long time.

As Habib Rahman of the Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrantsrecently pointed out on Cif, what’s wrong with people who have lived in this country for decades, most of whom are British citizens, getting a job?

Broader Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures put those figures in context. Total employment in Britain has risen by just over 2.5 million since Labour took office in 1997, from 26.444 million to 28.986 million. Employment among people born in the UK has risen by nearly 800,000, from 24.468 million to 25.259 million. Employment among UK citizens has risen by 1.2 million from 25.478 million to 26.691 million.

The total employment rate (the proportion of people of working age in employment) is the same, 72.6%, as when Labour took office. The employment rate among people born in the UK and among UK citizens has also remained stable.

So, despite the worst recession since the 1930s, and with a large increase in migration over the past decade, 2.5 million more people in Britain are in work, 0.8 million more people born in the UK are in work, and 1.2 million more British citizens are in work (and remember that some long-term residents are not British citizens).

The bigger point is this: there is not a fixed number of jobs to go around in the economy, so simplistic assertions that foreigners (or foreign-born people) have “taken” jobs that would otherwise have gone to British people are incorrect. If there were fewer immigrants in this country, there would also be fewer jobs around, because immigrants also create jobs when they spend their wages, and in complementary lines of work. For instance, a Polish builder creates jobs for British people selling building supplies and British interior designers. Even Andrew Green of MigrationWatch has conceded that immigrants don’t take “our” jobs.

Posted 11 Apr 2010 in Published articles
  1. I’m from Sweden and I’ve read your piece about immigrants ‘not’ taking jobs in in Britain. Where I’m from they certainly do lower wages and take jobs.

    Immigration is only good for Swedish businesses, not Swedes. We have proper laws in Sweden but Reinfeldt refuses to enforce them. My brother told me of a case where a person was working in a restaurant earning 110kr and hour and then when they started hiring Iraqi immigrants his pay got reduced to 70kr an hour. So he had to quit and find a new job.

    Were getting screwed over, lets face it. Somebody’s working on a job making good money. Iraqis come on the job and boom their pay drops. As for immigrants helping too keep things low is a bull-faced lie because they do not lower the price of food in restaurants or reduce the cost of hotel rooms. Why do Reinfeldt and his rich corporate cronies want mass immigration?

    Because they want a cheap, slave like workforce, where decent wages will be a thing of the past. Sweden was the ONLY country in the EU to welcome migrants from all of the new accession countries. In addition to this they now want companies to be able to hire anybody from any country.

    Also there is no minimum wage. This cheap labour migration is a plan to make the corporations rich while working folks are denied any hope of having any sort of a decent standard of living. This will create a third world country of corporate princes and the impoverished.

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