Socialist Worker

Report puts migrants at risk, but smashes racist myths

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2623

Far from lowering wages, migrants have fought battles that have won higher pay, such as cleaners at the London School of Economics

Far from lowering wages, migrants have fought battles that have won higher pay, such as cleaners at the London School of Economics (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A Tory-commissioned report into immigration is a huge threat to European Union (EU) migrants.

If its recommendations were implemented, three quarters of EU workers in Britain wouldn’t have been eligible to come, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report is a nasty attack on working class people that aims to split migrants into “good” and “bad”.

It recommends that the government make it easier for “higher-skilled” migrants to come here than “lower-skilled” workers.

Underlying this is an assumption that “lower-skilled” workers are a problem. The MAC complains, “With free movement there can be no guarantee that migration is in the interests of UK residents.”

Yet its own report blows these racist myths apart.

Right wingers claim that migrants both steal jobs and live a life on benefits.

Yet the MAC concluded that there is “little or no overall impact of immigration on the level of employment or unemployment of existing workers”. 

The report looked at the impact of immigration from the European Economic Area on Britain’s labour market between 1983 and 2017.

The ratio of working age EU migrants to working age UK-born people rose from 1.3 percent to 7.9 percent during this time.

During the same period “the employment rate for the working age UK-born population increased from 63.9 percent to 74.8 percent”. And the unemployment rate fell from 11 percent to 4.3 percent.

Jobs 

So migrants don’t take jobs from people born in Britain.

And they aren’t a drain on the system either. The MAC report said, “EU migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.”

It found that in 2016-17 “EU migrants as a whole are estimated to have paid £4.7 billion more in taxes than they received in welfare payments and public services”.

This contrasted with people born in Britain, who received £41.4 billion more than they paid in.

Migrants—part of our class
Migrants—part of our class
  Read More

Migrants make an even bigger contribution over a lifecycle.

The 515,000 migrants who came to Britain in 2016 are projected to make a £26.9 billion contribution across their lifetimes. 

Meanwhile migrants from ­outside the EU are expected to contribute £28,000 each across their lifetime.

People should have the right to live and work where they please, regardless of whether they are seen as “useful” for business.

We should reject any ­division between “higher-skilled” and “lower-skilled” people.

But unfortunately the Labour Party has accepted these very distinctions.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said immigration policy must “treat people fairly” but that “our immigration policy needs to be based on our economic needs”.

Discriminating against one section of workers makes it easier for the Tories and the bosses to attack us all.

And it makes it harder to launch a united fightback.

To read the full MAC report go to bit.ly/MACmigrants

Bosses are the real drain on services 

Right wingers, and some union leaders, say that migrants undermine wages.

Yet the MAC report makes clear that “immigration is not a major determinant of the wage growth” of British-born workers.

It found “little evidence” that European migration had any “substantial impact” on wages.

The report said there is “some suggestion” that migration can have a very small negative impact on “lower skilled groups”.

This could amount to a “0.8 percent decrease” for some British-born workers.

Yet this is nothing compared to the wage cuts imposed by the Tories and the bosses.

And it says “these estimates are imprecise and subject to uncertainty”.

Right wingers also argue that migrants put pressure on public services.

The MAC report said, “Migrants contribute much more to the health service and social care in financial resources and through work that they consume in services.”

There is “no evidence” that migration has hit the quality of healthcare, nor that it has “reduced parental choice in schools”.

The real drain on wages and services are the Tories and the bosses.


Most EU migrants ‘ineligible’

The Institute for Public Policy Research said attacks on “lower-skilled” workers would have a big impact.

It said that 97 percent of EU workers in the hospitality industry, such as hotels and restaurants, would be ineligible to come here under MAC plans.

Some 95 percent of transport and storage workers would be ineligible, as would a quarter of EU finance workers.

Some bosses have spoken out against the MAC report.

They want the ability to exploit migrants for profit when they want, without restriction, and to discard them when it suits.

But migrants’ rights shouldn’t be based on what’s good for the bosses. We need to defend the rights of all migrants.


Who are the lower-skilled workers?

The MAC “preferred” definition of higher and lower-skilled workers comes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It’s known as the Standard Occupational Classification.

This categorises people’s jobs into four broad groups based on the time needed for someone to become fully competent in it.

According to this, “lower” skilled jobs include “caring personal service occupations” and “process, plant and machine operatives” among others.

The MAC said that the ONS definition would categorise 45 percent of jobs as low-skilled in 2013, or 13.4 million jobs.

But just to confuse things, the MAC sometimes uses “other definitions when they are more suitable”.


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