Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

FOCUS ON IMMIGRATION

In R.Richardson on March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

The Truth behind the headlines: 

RUTH RICHARDSON examines the rival claims on the impact of immigration on jobs,

On January 10, headlines in the “i” newspaper read “Immigration has no impact on employment”. The following day the Daily Express’s front page declared “Migrants do take British jobs.” Even allowing for the different political perspectives of the respective newspapers, this seems a contradiction too far.

What confused the issue was that there have been two recent reports on immigration that appear to be in conflict on whether there is an association between inward migration and rising unemployment. The report by MAC (the Migration Advisory Committee) seems to suggest such an association. But to quote MAC’s chair, David Metcalf, “there is some displacement but it isn’t huge, and it doesn’t happen in buoyant economic times.” Moreover, evidence of competition for jobs is confined to the skilled sectors, which suggests that immigration is not a factor in the recent rise in youth unemployment.

The other report, by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) concludes that immigration has had little or no impact on employment.

DIFFERENCE IN DATA:

So, why the difference? Mainly, says MRN (Migrant Rights Network), the two reports used different data sets. The MAC report used labour force survey material which extends across all eleven regions of the UK. The NIESR on the other hand used data from National Insurance number registrations, which provides more detailed material on people moving to the UK to work. This methodology enabled researchers to look in detail at smaller areas, giving their study more focus and accuracy.

The MAC report points out that there are many more aspects to immigration than the impact on the jobs market. In devising an immigration policy the Government needs to be clear on whose needs and interests are being prioritised. The well-being of the resident population in terms of public finances, housing and transport should be the focus, says MAC chair, David Metcalfe.

RESEARCH – AND BIAS:

Both the MAC and the NIESR are respectable research bodies which seek to present their findings accurately and without bias. However, in searching the internet for background to this story, I came across the website of Migration Watch. Set up about ten years ago, this organisation sees itself as a watchdog to guard against the UK being “swamped by immigrants”. Visitors to the website are invited to sign an e-petition to keep the UK population below 70 million. I found particularly unpleasant a section called “reports” which contains short news stories concerning anything that shows an immigrant in a poor light. Daily Express readers will find all their prejudices confirmed here!

Immigration Minister, Damien Green, says “this Government is working to reduce net migration… controlled immigration can bring benefits to the UK, but uncontrolled immigration can put pressure on public services, on infrastructures and on community relations.”

SAD:

Personally I find it sad that it is taken for granted that any immigration policy we devise should only be for the benefit of the UK. Surely as one of the richer countries in the world (even in these straitened times) we could see it as our duty as citizens of the world to welcome those who need a haven. Economic migrants are not evil. They simply want a better chance in life for their families. Don’t we all?

I found the stories behind the headlines of the Express and the “i”  quite complicated and the reports needed careful reading. But it was a salutory lesson in how facts can be plucked from their contexts to give credence to a pre-determined view.

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