Home Class Politics The ONS Has Just Explained The Importance Of Immigration

The ONS Has Just Explained The Importance Of Immigration

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This might sound a little odd, to be pointing to evidence of emigration a evidence of the importance of immigration but bear with me:

The number of foreign-born workers employed in the UK fell by almost 600,000 in the past year as Covid laid waste to the jobs market and sparked an exodus of migrants.

There are now 765,000 fewer people of working age born abroad in Britain than there were a year ago, with a bigger fall in those from the EU than those from the rest of the world.

It comes as the unemployment rate rose to 4.8pc in September, its highest level in four years according to the Office for National Statistics.

Redundancies hit a record high as the pandemic wiped out jobs.

The fall in workers from the EU14 – nations such as France and Germany – in the UK is similar to the drop seen during the financial crisis.

However, a far greater share of those from the EU8, which covers more workers from Eastern European nations including Poland, have been affected.

Start with the bit of economics that Karl Marx got right. If there’s a reserve army of the unemployed hanging around then worker wages won’t rise. Even as profits rise for the capitalists they don;t have to share them with the peons. Because there’s always someone out there, starving, who’ll come and do the job for a crust.

So, unemployment means no wage rises. Not generally across the economy that is, even if certain skills in short supply do get higher pay.

OK.

But Britain has, in the past few years, had low unemployment. Lowest since the 1970s or so wasn’t it? And we’d a high employment to population ratio. There was no reserve army – so why weren’t wages moving?

Because immigration, obviously. But not in fact that long term immigration. For if people come here and settle to spend their lives then of course they’re either employed or part of that reserve army. The Marx point doesn’t change.

But we’ve now got £50 flights from central Europe. People can come over to work. If there’s no work, go home again. Or work then there’s no work and go home. As we can see in the ONS numbers. The two big periods of unemployment in the last 15 years – roughly since people could come from central Europe – have seen waves of people going home.

That is, the reserve army of the unemployed is in Brno, Budapest, these days. It’s still out there, still keeping wage rises down, it’s just not on the dole in the UK. Which does mean something interesting. It’s exactly that free movement of labour within the EU which is leading to stagnant wages – even, perhaps to the rise in the capital share of the economy. So, all those whining about stagnant wages and the fall in the labour share – whadda ya gonna do ’bout it, hunh?

Shudder in fright at having to talk about immigration probably……

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I was making a similar point, I think when I was at Uni in the 1980s, albeit very badly expressed. Something like:

    We had full employment in The Empire because we “exported” all our unemployment to India where most of the population sat in the streets in penury. Now that India is industrialising, they have a chunk of that global total of jobs, meaning that we have the unemployment they used to have.

    Very badly put, it’s predicated on there being a fixed global “amount” of jobs, if I’d read any Marx or got past page 1 of an Economics textbook back then I would have been able to phrase it better.

  2. I believe I pointed this out to Tim last year or before. I proposed Krakow as the place the reserve army lived rather than Brno or Budapest. However, there is more to this than stagnant wages. We have to pay to keep the Brits who are no longer employed. Basically it is not about skilled workers leaving and being replaced by enticing foreigners. It’s about bringing in poor people when we have sufficient already. To inflate demand, to suck up resources which were not planned for the new numbers. That is the immigration debate we are not allowed to have.

    • That seems pretty close to the argument that I’ve heard about why we need more immigrants in Oz. It’s supposed to increase demand and ensure that our economy grows. But it doesn’t seem to mean that the income of the present inhabitants grows, unless of course you have a business that profits from the continued inflow of plebs.

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