Fury at foreign storms in British teacups - and guess who's paying

Since I talk here about the way the tabloids exaggerate and distort immigration figures, it would be remiss of me not to mention the recent shenanigans over how the government had miscounted the number of migrant workers in the country. It's a big old balls up that's annoying as hell, especially when you're somebody who uses government figures as a guide on the number of migrants to come to conclusions about immigration's effects.

Still, it's very difficult to tell from the media coverage - including that of the dirty Marxists at the BBC - exactly what it means or what the figures refer to, hence the couple of days' wait before I posted anything.

After much trawling through different versions of the story and not finding anything explaining exactly what the new numbers mean or why they had to be changed, I came across this version at epolitix - 'New admission on migrant jobs'. It includes the following explanation of the revised number:
The DWP insisted ministers used the earlier estimate "in good faith" and attributed the rise to more detailed analysis by officials of the Labour Force Survey - which is compiled by the Office for National Statistics.

This includes "a more rigorous definition" of foreign national workers to include those in the country before 1997 who have subsequently taken up jobs.
Now, I don't know about you, but before I came across this piece of information I'd been under the impression that the government had underestimated the number of foreign nationals actually present in the country - not just the number of foreign nationals who got their job after 1997. Even with an extra 300,000 (or 700,000 depending on what you read - but more on that later) added to these figures, not a single person has been added to the population, and not a single person has been added to the number of foreign nationals in this country.

Given media coverage of the apology, it's no wonder I thought that. The dirty lefties at the BBC cover the story in 'Half of new jobs go to migrants' and 'Smith 'sorry' for migrants error'. In the first, it includes a quote from David Davis saying:
"Immigration policy has been out of control for a decade and, if you can't count migration, you certainly can't control it."
which is uncontradicted even though it's wrong, since it's not migration that was being counted but the number of new jobs that had been taken up by people from overseas.

In the second, it includes a dirty great quote from Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch infamy, banging on about how we can't cope with millions of extra people even though the bungled figures were not about the number of people arriving, but the number already here taking jobs after 1997. Green pops up in the horribly communist Guardian's coverage in 'Smith apologises for foreign workers error' too, which doesn't explain that the additions to the numbers are not people who hadn't been counted as present in the country, and neither does any of the other Graun coverage I've seen, including 'Brown treating public like fools over immigration, says Cameron', 'Numbers: Improving population statistics', 'Brown promises migration rule revamp amid statistical spat' or 'The numbers game'. Neither do the Independent's 'Government red-faced over immigration figures' or 'Ministers accused of underestimating number of foreign workers by 400,000'. (As for the right wing papers - are you joking)? Liberal elite, where are you?

Now, here's why I think the underestimate of the figures is just a balls up rather than deliberate duplicity. If the government had actually wanted to cover anything up, they could easily have brazened it out, since what Hain said in Parliament was almost technically correct. Seriously. He said:
"with 2.7 million extra jobs in the last ten years, around .8 million of those from outside the country have come to work in Britain"
The extra .3 million haven't come from outside the country in the last ten years. They were already here. If Hain had wanted to cover anything up, he didn't have to admit to his mistake in the way he did. He just had to say he meant to add 'in the last 10 years' to the end of his sentence. The fact that he did apologise is a strong indicator that it was just that - a mistake. Add to that how bloody easy it would have been to put a positive spin on a larger number of migrants actually in work than was previously thought, and you've got another indicator that the mistake wasn't deliberate.

Once Hain admits a mistake, of course he gets further jumped all over, an example being the Mail's 'Migrant jobs fiasco: Official estimate goes from 800,000 to 1.5m in 24 hours' saying:
And yet another official figure, this time from the Government's own Office for National Statistics, put the total of migrant workers at 1.5million.
This beautifully exposes the genius of the right substituting the word 'migration' with 'immigration' (I'd love to know where this started, so if any of you clever people know where & when - I'm thinking its either stolen from US Republicans or has been imported from Australia - please say so in the comments). Some of the new .4 million are British citizens who were born abroad to British citizens. Not foreigners. Technically, they're migrants, since they've moved from somewhere else - but how many people would spot that (especially as the paper doesn't bother to explain)? You'll also notice from the coverage of the figures that came from the ONS statistician earlier in the year (the 1.5 million ones) that they were actually in answer to a different sodding question.

It's easy to see how someone would try to calculate how many jobs in the last ten years had gone to foreigners by counting the number of people who arrived and are in work without thinking to count those who were already here and didn't get their job until after 1997. As for the further extra 400,000 who are mainly British citizens - eff off. They shouldn't be counted anyway. Hain's biggest mistake - and the official who undoubtedly supplied him with his figures - was to forget that when people ask about migrant numbers, the right wants the maximum numbers possible - including migrants' kids, half the kids born to one migrant and one non-migrant, tourists, British people coming back, ducks, geese, swallows, and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.

Yes, an embarrassing gaffe. But what does it say about the government's counting of immigrants? Precisely sod-all, since if the epolitix story is right, all these people had been counted and included in the Labour Force Survey anyway. Hain just categorised them badly.

Storm, meet teacup.

This is not to say that immigration figures couldn't be dealt with better and in a clearer way. They should. For a start, the sluggishness with which they change only means Local Authorities don't get enough funding in time to deal with increasing numbers, which has served as grist to the mill of the Tories and their tabloids for ages now - not to mention the BNP.

Professor David Coleman (of MigrationWatch infamy) highlighted the problem of poor governent figures on immigration when he said:
No recent and extensive critical review of statistics on immigration and ethnicity is available, although official publilcations clarify some of the incompatibilities between different data sources.
Except you know when he said that? 1982.*

This is not a new problem, people. Stop pretending it is. And stop pretending its the deliberate invention of the current administration. There's a lot that is, but inaccurate immigration stats aren't one of them.

*In 'Demography of immigrants and minority groups in the United Kingdom' advertised on the Galton Institute website.

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