"Well, there's no problem. If you have a gun, shoot 'em in the head. That's a sure way to kill 'em. If you don't, get yourself a club or a torch. Beat 'em or burn 'em. They go up pretty easy." - Sherrif McClelland, 'Night of the Living Dead'There have been a few stories in the tabloids over the last year and a bit that try to scare us with lurid tales about how many jobs have been stolen by foreigners. The most blatantly similar to a shouting BNP goon is the recent 'THEY'VE STOLEN ALL OUR JOBS' in the Star, but there are others. I've been stretching out a zombie metaphor when I look at these stories recently, and I thought I'd stretch the thing even further by giving everyone Sherrif McClelland style advice about the things that kill off these kinds of story. It'll save me some typing time in the future if nothing else. So here goes.
1. The people the papers are talking about might not be 'foreign' or 'migrants', as most people would use those words.
In my recent travels, I've come across this Statistics Commission briefing note, explaining the event that kicked this whole epedemic off back in 2007, when the government seemed to release a load of conflicting figures for how many new jobs had gone to foreigners. It says this:
All the more recent stories in the papers use the 'migrant' definition, but use the word interchangeably with 'foreign'. A chunk of the people they've counted as being foreign migrants who have stolen new jobs (it's impossible to say exactly how big a chunk) will be UK citizens who have been in the country for more than ten years.
‘migrant’ workers and ‘foreign’ workers are not the same thing – over one third of those born abroad and in UK employment in 2007 were UK nationals rather than foreign nationals;
most ’migrant’ workers are not recent arrivals – no more than half of those born abroad, and in UK employment in 2007, had arrived in the UK in the past 10 years.
2. The things the papers are calling 'jobs' aren't actually jobs
This is how the tabloids can, with a straight face, tell us that more foreigners took new jobs than there were new jobs. The briefing note says this:
The 2.7 million figure [of 'new jobs' added since 1997] was a valid estimate, based on aggregate labour market statistics, although it is worth noting that strictly the reference should have been to “2.7 million more people in employment” rather than “extra jobs”. There are more jobs than people who have jobs but in the context of an oral answer this is a small point.It may well be a small point in the context of an oral parliamentary answer, but in the context of a front page headline screaming about how many jobs have been 'stolen' by 'them', it's a very big one.
What the papers or MigrationWatch or whoever mean to say is that there are now X number more people born outside the UK in employment than there were at whatever point they've arbitrarily chosen from the past. The thing is, the proportion of UK born people of working age in work is pretty much steady at around 75%, although the absolute number is dropping. That's because the working age population of the UK born is shrinking. The papers are trying their best to make us believe that swarthy foreigners are arriving in droves, snapping up jobs and going 'yoink!' at the vast swathes of poor British people behind them in the interview queue. Of course, this is rubbish.
But we're talking about tabloid newspapers here. Some of the figures we're talking about are completely impossible - nobody can take more of something than is actually on offer. Any kid whose played musical chairs can tell you that. It doesn't stop the papers spouting spurious figures telling us that exactly that is happening though.
That's it. Some of the people the papers are calling 'foreign' aren't foreign, and the things they're calling 'jobs' aren't actually jobs. Other than that, the stories are fine. Remember that next time you see a similar story. With there being an economic downturn beginning that will inevitably result in people being laid off in large numbers, you can expect to see loads more in the future.
Oh, and play the music I linked to at the top.