By Ken Olende
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2465

Migrants and minorities aren’t ‘milking’ benefits

This article is over 8 years, 8 months old
Issue 2465
Migrant bus workers in London strike in January
Migrant bus workers in London strike in January (Pic: Guy Smallman)

People from ethnic minorities are actually disproportionately affected by the attacks in George Osborne’s July budget, according to a new report from the Runnymede Trust.

Most of what it says applies to austerity in general. It points out that people from ethnic minorities and the poorest groups among these suffer more.

“British Bangladeshi and Pakistani households are particularly affected, with up to half of Bangladeshi households out by £1,000 or more,” it states.

It concludes that, “Cuts to, or freezes in, the value of tax credits will therefore increase racial inequalities because they disproportionately affect BME (black and minority ethnic) families who are already more likely to be living in poverty.”

Despite this, the Daily Express ran a front page headline last week, crowing, “Migrants Milking Britain’s Benefits”—based on another report by anti-migrant group Migration Watch.

The Sun headlined a story, “For every hard working foreigner there are two claiming benefits, says report”.

Four days later The Sun printed a tiny apology saying, “Migration Watch actually said that while about 70 percent of migrants are in work, those with stronger economic characteristics outnumber those with weaker ones two to one.” 

Still confused? This is because the Migration Watch report had tried to find a way to suggest that migrants claim a disproportionate amount of benefits. It is trying to undermine statistics which show that migrants claim less in benefits than they contribute. 


So it divided the migrant population up into smaller and smaller categories until it found some that claim more than the average for British-born workers. 

The right wing tabloids took the report at face value, which is what got them in trouble.

The Migration Watch report attacks those it calls “not strong economic performers”. 

But even here the worst it can come up with is that African immigrants “have overall employment rates and wages on a par with the UK-born, but much higher rates of benefit claim”.

It grudgingly concedes that a “greater prevalence of tax credits claims among migrants… is likely to derive from lower incomes rather than a higher proportion with children.” So the problem is low pay.

Socialist Worker believes that every worker from whatever background has the right to claim benefits.

But propaganda from the press and the rich has been relentless.

They suggest that in some way migrant and ethnic minority populations are benefiting at the expense of British born people. 

These myths need to be challenged, not because poor white people aren’t suffering under the Tory cuts—they are—but because the way to stop this is to fight austerity in general. 

And that can only be done by rejecting all scapegoating.

Anti-racist NGOs cut back

Local organisations supporting Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people have been particularly hit by the cuts.

Some 15,000 such groups exist in Britain.

Since the beginning of the recession state funding for voluntary sector organisations has reduced by about 5 percent. 

But the figure for organisations aimed at ethnic minorities is far higher, up to 28 percent according to a report by BME advocacy group Voice4Change. 

The Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO) said that such groups’ total income has dropped by 61 percent. 

Many anti-racist activists have looked to such NGOs to fund projects to oppose racism and its effects since the 1980s. 

Today these organisations are among those hit hardest by the cuts. 

The Voice4Change website reports, “Back in 2010, a report by CEMVO found that 45 percent of 173 BME organisations surveyed have suffered cuts by local authority and other funders. Since then, many more organisations have been affected.”

‘Youth fall by the wayside’

Dean Ryan works with young people in north London and is a Unison union steward. 

Speaking in a personal capacity he told Socialist Worker, “There are two reasons why ethnic minorities are more affected by the cuts. 

“First because they tend to be poorer and second because they face racism.”

Yet the services that might help people cope with these difficulties are under attack. 

Dean said, “The young people I work with are affected by cuts partly because of benefit changes, but also funding for schools.

“A lot of schools have real problems and are not giving the right careers advice. 

“A lot of young people are falling by the wayside.

“Now because of that, the government is putting money into what it calls ‘vulnerable cohorts’ and people with special educational needs. 

“That can help people, but it would have been better not to create the problem in the first place.

“The government needs to give local authorities enough funding to provide a service. 

“We will have to fight to get that.”

Hit hardest by unemployment

Long term unemployment for 16-24 year olds from ethnic minorities has risen by 49 percent since 2010. 

That’s according to official government figures.

At the same time, the figure for young white people fell by two percent. And the overall figure fell by one percent.

This suggests that there is continuing discrimination against black and Asian people in the workplace.

Discrimination in workplaces

The Runnymede Trust report acknowledges their “analysis does not address the issue of discrimination in the labour market, which remains widely documented in 21st century Britain.

“Discrimination is one of the main reasons why people don’t get hired, promoted or retained, and so explains the BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] pay gap for similarly-qualified workers, under-employment, self-employment and unemployment data for BME people.”


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