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By Philippe Legrain 4 COMMENTS

Are immigrants taking our jobs? It is an explosive issue, especially with Britain sinking into recession and unemployment rising. So opponents of immigration will doubtless seize on a new report by Migrationwatch which claims that those dastardly foreigners who have the cheek to look after our granny or pick English strawberries are stealing jobs from British people. Yet Migrationwatch’s claims are flatly contradicted by figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Migrationwatch claims that nearly all the jobs created in the UK since 2001 have gone to immigrants. But figures from the Labour Force Survey show that employment among British-born people actually rose by 378,000 between the second quarter of 2001 and the second quarter of 2008, the dates arbitrarily chosen by Migrationwatch. If one excludes the recent fall in employment due to the financial crisis and instead compares the last three months of 2000 with the last three months of 2007, the number of UK-born people with jobs has risen by just over half a million (520,000).

Migrationwatch also claims that employment among UK-born people has fallen by 230,000 since the second quarter of 2004, when Britain opened its labour market to the Poles and other eastern Europeans joining the EU. But this too is contradicted by ONS figures. These show that the number of British-born people in jobs actually rose by 43,000 between the second quarter of 2004 and the same period of 2008. Excluding the impact of the financial crisis, employment rose by 175,000 between the second quarter of 2004 and the last three months of 2007.

Migrationwatch say that “there has been no progress at all in getting British-born unemployed workers into work” since 2001 and blame immigrants for this. But ONS figures suggest otherwise. They show that the employment rate among British-born people – the proportion of UK-born people of working age in employment – rose sharply in Labour’s first term, from 73.5% in the second quarter of 1997 to 76% in the third quarter of 2000. Since then it has remained roughly steady: it was 75.6% in the second quarter of 2004 when Britain opened up to east European workers and 76% in the last quarter of 2007. In other words, the employment rate stopped improving well before eastern European migrants started arriving in large numbers, and has not worsened since.

The bigger point is this. As even Migrationwatch are forced to concede, there is not a fixed number of jobs in the economy. Immigrants don’t just take jobs, they also create them, as they spend their wages and in complementary lines of work. If Britain threw out its Polish workers, there wouldn’t suddenly be more jobs for British people – just as throwing women out of work wouldn’t provide more jobs for men.

Whatever way you look at it, immigrants are not taking British people’s jobs. On the contrary, they are helping to provide vital public services and keeping small businesses going. Not for the first time, Migrationwatch’s xenophobic prejudice is causing it to twist the truth. Andrew Green should be ashamed of himself.

Posted 16 Dec 2008 in Blog
  1. Anonymous says:

    Sir Andrew’s No.2 at migrationwatch is David Coleman – a distinguished Oxford demographer and statistician who had a very high governmental post.
    He knows a damn sight more about statistics than you do, Mr. Legrain.

  2. Bob says:

    Having a high governmental post and an Oxford demographer does not mean he is always right, does it..

  3. NeoMalthus says:

    ‘Whatever way you look at it, immigrants are not taking British people’s jobs’
    When there are high levels of unemployment this is simply not correct.
    Supporting high levels of immigration as the economy sinks into recession is pure madness.

  4. saleem yousaf says:

    you are totally wrong,i am the son of a immigrant born here,immigrants have been in the past and future will be used as cheap labour,undermining the existing labour force.
    the impact of unregulated immigration is having on British society is terrible ,on social services and housing as well as the on the cohesion of British society,Migration Watch have taken every point you have made about the supposed benefits of migration and torn it to bits
    Yet you still peddle this immigrants are good theises,i can only assume you are a trained economist who does not undersrtand how society works.Your profession is totally discredited.Globalization is bunk and will not work.The EU is a neo-liberal corporate led business agenda.people are finally waking up to what it truely is,it is going to fail
    Politics and economics is local,not global,this project is doomed,i will not be buying your book,your just another snake oil salesman selling fake remedies

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