Theresa May’s claims that immigration is to blame for unemployment in the UK have come under attack from an unlikely source: former Chancellor George Osborne.
During her conference speech [paywall] this year, May claimed that:
if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or — and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this — someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.
Remember, we are close to full employment in this country, so I think the argument that somehow immigrants are taking jobs that are leaving a load of people unemployed in Britain doesn’t really stack up because there aren’t loads of people unemployed in Britain.
Immigration has become a convenient hook on which to blame all the current ills of society. A briefing prepared by the LSE before the referendum found that “immigrants do not account for the majority of new jobs”. The study also showed that:
There is still no evidence of an overall negative impact of immigration on jobs, wages, housing or the crowding out of public services. Any negative impacts on wages of less skilled groups are small. One of the largest impacts of immigration seems to be on public perceptions.
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The real culprit
These public perceptions have been fuelled by politicians and the tabloid press. Headlines such as EU wants migrants to take our jobs or 1.7 million new jobs and 92% go to migrants simply do not represent what Osborne describes as the “hard data”.
Unfortunately for Osborne, one of the main culprits for the inequality we are currently seeing is the impact of the austerity measures he championed as Chancellor. According to Professor Danny Dorling of Oxford University:
Almost all other European countries tax more effectively, spend more on health, and do not tolerate our degree of economic inequality. To distract us from these national failings, we have been encouraged to blame immigration and the EU.
Dorling further stated that:
The UK has benefited greatly from the immigration of healthier than average young adults, educated at someone else’s expense; many of them work in our health, educational, social, and care services.
Osborne is right to question May’s claims on immigration. But to get to the heart of the problems of inequality that the country is facing, we need to look at the policies he implemented – policies which are still being pushed forward by Theresa May’s Conservative government.
– Join the campaign against austerity.
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