Henry Forth writes from London: British government statistics will show that more people leave the UK for jobs abroad than arrive here for work. These are figures that will upset the Keep Out lobby who think once again that foreigners are steaming into the British Isles, particularly the South East, to steal our jobs and live off generous welfare benefits until they hit the career opportunity.
A couple of days ago we carried Red Harmisson’s incisive report on Australia’s dilemma in dealing with an increase of boat people. Well, at least Australian PM Julia Gillard has a policy, even if it’s not a very good one. The UK seems to have missed the point: immigration works both ways. Johnny Foreigner can be good for the UK, in spite of what the keep-them-out-at-all-costs lobby groups like Migration Watch try to tell us.
Everyone wants to toss out or better still, keep out, mostly African rip-off artists coming to the UK to get a big house and government handouts while lying about some non-existent threat to them and their extended families in that darkest and most dangerous continent. Sure it’s a bitch not to be comfortably off in a cosy society. But letting in crooks and shysters is the norm in the UK and that’s why the British seem to be going the other way. Everybody Out!
The statistics will suggest that more than 60 per cent of Britons think immigrants are job-stealers. Yet evidence suggests they are mostly wrong.
In some UK areas, for example, the popular seaside resort of Hastings, there is a double-digit unemployment rate. At the same time there are many high grade jobs going in local light industries – some of the Top Secret government labs. So how could this be? It’s not a matter of people being unemployed; they are in fact unemployable. Here then is why so many companies want a simpler system to bring in people who are qualified or willing to work hard (something alien to the British psyche). But it is hard and getting harder to bring in people to work.
Accordingly, the UK is losing out on a ready collection of good research students, established scientists and even much needed but properly qualified medics. The British were warned. David Cameron campaigned in opposition to correct the balance in UK between those who leave the country and those who come in. He’s failed. The UK still has a brain and skills drain.
The key is a Home Office which is preventing the very people the UK economy can well do with coming in: professional overseas workers and £sterling-rich students the university bursars desperately want. Remember also that most of these people are short term residents.
The UK has cut back during the past year on more than 20 per cent of the norm for study visas. And is doing so at a time when higher education is a top level industry for the British. Odder still is the failure to accept that educating overseas students is firstly a contribution to existing developing countries and secondly, a long term British investment. High class overseas students remember where they were taught and ten years or so later are often in a position to sign contracts for UK businesses.
Those who do get in learn that Britain is almost third world in its delight in making things harder to function. That system is called bureaucracy.
British business screams out for short to medium term overseas workers but is learning that the visa system is tougher to crack as Homeland Security and Home Office policy combine to keep out terrorism and benefit fraudsters.
In many cases, only a third of the Home Office’s allowed entrance quota was filled last year because bureaucracy stymied the legitimate requests by companies, especially the smaller firms, to bring people in. One result is that valued workers are going elsewhere.
Immigration bigotry among Britons, especially those from overseas already settled with a new passport, has tweaked the political antennae in the major parties. Telling an ignorant electorate that the government will keep out the wrong people is good election politics. Mind you, the British have never welcomed people from overseas in spite of the image of warm and wonderful Britons protecting the poor devils from persecution among their own in some far off land.
The inconsistency in political ambition and practice is obvious when government understands this need to get people into the country who will enhance the economy but fails to do so. People want to enter the UK to study and work and leave. That’s good for the lucrative educational reputation and market. It’s also good for industry and commerce which cannot get what it has to have from home-grown populations. It is also good for the Chancellor who collects taxes from successful corporations as well as smaller concerns and the individuals they employ.
The Economist newspaper recently wrote that the country’s global popularity gives it a huge advantage which the government is squandering. The world is a competitive place. Britain is trying to run with its shoelaces tied together. It needs to balance the need to keep out the nasties with the commercial desire to encourage those who will be an asset to UK plc. Not easy – but since world economies slithered to a halt, nothing is any more.