Does #MichaelWhite, #Guardian Know What Grown-up Migration Debate Would Look Like? #RochesterandStrood

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“Downing Street is seeking to respond to the threat from the right from Ukip.  But Cameron also wants to show Tory Eurosceptics he is serious about reform.  They have said in recent weeks that the plan to crack down on benefit tourism showed No 10 was not serious about introducing major reforms because there is relatively little evidence of benefit abuse by EU citizens.”

Barroso warns Cameron that arbitrary migration cap would breach EU law

(Guardian, Sunday 19th October, 2014)

Michael White of the Guardian thinks thatPaul Collier, a distinguished Oxford professor of public policy, a weighty, progressive intellectual of international repute, author of Exodus,” “has thought about” migration “harder than most of us.”

White refers to this article by Collier as an example of Collier’s weighty pondering.  Pondering that at one point refers to assimilation and at a later point, integration.  White may be unaware that these are two very different concepts, not in any way interchangeable and that assimilation is something for which the BNP calls and which, since Doncaster (see ‘Culture’), ukip is demanding too.  I would expect Collier to know the difference and know just how inflammatory calls for assimilation happen to be.

When it come to attitudes towards Social Security, Collier says, “As to diversity, it involves a trade-off: as it increases, variety is enhanced but cohesion reduced.  Variety is good but, unfortunately, as cohesion erodes voters become less willing to support generous welfare programmes.

There is a universal psychological tendency for inconvenient truths to be denigrated, and this is certainly inconvenient for the left. But it is not speculation: I describe some of the supporting research in my book Exodus, and rigorous new experimental research by the Oxford political scientists Sergi Pardos and Jordi Muñoz finds that immigration has just this effect, especially on benefits that are targeted at the poor.”

Firstly, when was there a time in the last forty years or so that the United Kingdom has had “generous welfare programmes”?  Moreover, this is not the United States of America, we do not have welfare programmes.  The word programme is used in the UK in connection with back to work support, for example the fatally flawed Work Programme.

Secondly, attitude surveys going back 30 yerars show that voters have, starting then, become less tolerant of recipients of what many, like the Daily Mail, parts of ukip and IDS, believe to be generous welfare hand outs.  Bizarrely, some of those holding those views are themselves long term beneficiaries of Social Security.  Was there a lot of (im)migration going on in the early 1980s or was Mrs Thatcher ramping up the rhetoric against people signing on?

Thirdly, where is this law of nature that says as diversity increases, variety is enhanced, but cohesion reduced?  Does that not suppose that there was cohesion at the outset?  For the record, for reasons more than simply their discriminatory attitudes, me and mine have precious little in common with ukip’s supporters, except where we were born.  We would, regardless of their views about migration and their attidudes towards the presence of locally born ‘foreigners’, still not be cohering with this group.  We are, for example, opposed to foxhunting.  Bearing the latter in mind, may I observe that I find ukip’s support, from top to bottom, to be unspeakable?  They are a pack of economic and social Luddites.  Let me be frank, I find it hard not to think about them, in the way that they think about migrants, as much as I try not so to do.

As an aside, are migrants from other European Union countries remaining in the United Kingdom indefinitely?  We are using the words, migration and immigration, as meaning the same thing, but an immigrant is someone who arrives with the intention of staying.  Surely we should be using migrant to describe people who behave like migratory birds do?  Surely that is surely a grown up way to debate this issue?  Collier, as shown above, uses the word immigration.  Migrant is, in the mouths of some, becoming anyone who is not white British, period.

White says that, “Unlike most of us, Collier even has a practical remedy for David Cameron as he makes a poor fist of trying to slow down inward migration from Eastern Europe without overtaking Angela Merkel’s patience or the limited imagination of rules-bound Brussels apparatchiks. As another Labour MP whispered to me during the Eastleigh by-election, one reason why would-be migrants of the poorer kind risk freezing at Calais is that Britain’s welfare payments are not all determined by past contributions: “We could change that without EU permission.” ” Collier actually says, “Perhaps it is that, unlike in the rest of Europe, access to our welfare system is not determined by past contributions.”  in other words, Collier has no evidence for his ‘solution’, but White turns it into one!

We may, of course, change how one becomes eligible for Social Security payments without EU permission.  The Coalition started a major round of doing just that on coming to power.  Those changes apply to all seeking to claim, regardless of country of origin.  One might think that Collier and White (sounds like a 1950s department store) had not heard of Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.

White should perhaps check Collier’s weighty article of 16th March, 2012, “My fiscal nightmares” wherein Collier says, “A prudent government protects the balance sheet while running a large fiscal deficit. It does so by drastically changing the composition of public spending. Public consumption is massively reduced, concentrating on components that commit spending far into the future. The top priority is therefore to reduce entitlement spending: benefits and pensions.”

Is the current debate providing Collier with cover for arguing again for his top priority?  Collier also buys into the idea that the UK faced, in 2012, the same position as Greece.  I beg to differ and I have got Robert Skidelsky, Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University and the author of the definitive biography of John Maynard Keynes, on my side:

“The national debt is a burden on future generations: This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.

But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.”

Post-crash economics: some common fallacies about austerity

As we hold our own debt, we have a vested interest in not calling it in lest we bring down our economy, down around our ears.  I am assuming Collier is not necessarily a Keynesian when it comes to National Debt?

Whatever else Collier may be, he seems to know as much about Social Security systems both here and elsewhere in Europe as the Mayor of Calais.  You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or if you are already living abroad.  What you’re entitled to depends on where you are going and how long for.  This is where you, as a United Kingdom citizen, can claim benefits:

European Economic Area (EEA) countries

The following countries have benefits arrangements with the UK:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but is treated as an EEA country for certain benefits.

Other countries with UK benefits arrangements

The following countries have social security agreements with the UK:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Canada
  • Channel Islands
  • Macedonia
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Kosovo
  • Mauritius
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • the Philippines
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • USA

Let us not forget moving or retiring abroad and, of course that you have the right to live and work in any European Economic Area (EEA) country, if you are a UK citizen.

For the record, Collier and White, no one is assessed for entitlement to tax credits on the basis of National Insurance Contributions, regardless of where they come from within the EEA, including the UK.

I have already written in some depth about the Social Security contributory principle here so please treat that post as an addendum to this one.  I would add that making changes to our own systems in order to seek to deny non contributory Social Security to migrants would be costly, particularly if the aim were to run, for example, three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution Based, Income Based and Migrant Income/Contribution Based) alongside each other.  There would be even greater potential for under and over payments and, arguably more potential for fraud amongst people receiving MICB JSA.  Not forgetting, of course, that JSAPS and ESAPs are sinking as Universal Credit grinds to a halt on the slipway.

I have spoken to Michael White via Twitter about means testing the free bus passes for old people.  He was waxing lyrical about means testing entitlement to the pass saving money, apart from the fact he had no evidence from a Social and Economic Cost Benefit Allowance to prove his point, he was blithely unaware of the costs involved in means testing.  Costs that would have to be offset against any savings.  He nearly went all Mcvey over me, along the lines of when she said that, although the bedroom tax was not saving money, it was a matter of principle to carry on with it.

Collier says, “The economic consequences of a” migration “pause would be negligible as long as students were exempted.”  Unsurprisingly, someone nestling in the groves of academe does not want those groves denied of any income, whether home grown or from abroad.  Good to see though that Collier, like I, value students from abroad studying here, but I expect that we will reap significant benefits from their, hopefully, happy time here at some future date and not in the here and now.  Where is Collier’s evidence, given his concern with the here and now, that migrant students are a benefit to UK plc whilst studying here? More of a benefit, say, than migrants working and paying Income Tax and National Insurance whilst they work here?

Also, I have news for Collier and White, there is, once again, a skills shortage in the construction industry:

Bricklayers’ boom highlights ‘skills timebomb’ in UK construction industry

SMEs: is enough being done to tackle the UK’s skills shortage?

Skills shortage fears temper surge in UK construction

Construction sector skills shortage blamed for holding back housebuilding

Kipper Williams on the construction skills shortage

I would like to make a couple of points with regards to the first two articles.  “As builders take on new work, a shortage of skilled tradespeople has allowed subcontractors to ramp up their hourly rates” (first article).  The Polish plumber and his friend, the bricklayer will be stepping in to take up some of the slack, one presumes.  A colleague of mine in the mid 2000s had an uncle working in the building industry in the east of England.  His relative said that the British bricklayers were good, they could put up a brick wall, leaving a space for a gate, perfectly well.  The Poles were better, they could build a brick arch over the gap between the two walls.  The British had been trained by the UK taxpayer to NVQ2 and the poles to NVQ3 by the Polish taxpayer.

Did ukip have to import that out of work Irish actor to appear in a poster, posing as a bricklayer, because British bricklayers did not share ukip’s stance and/or were too busy?  If you are a bricklayer and out of work at this time may I suggest, tactfully, that it is because no one thinks you are employable?  Moreover, that if there were no migrants you would still be at the back of the queue? I would go so far as to say that there is an overlap between that tiny minority of UK residents defrauding the UK Social Security system and ukip’s unemployed supporters.  They have been presenting themselves at the door during party canvassing exercises in the same way they used to down at the Jobcentre.  We know who you are, chaps, because some of you are the real (not Daily Mail) scroungers we used to sanction back in the day.  There is a certain irony in that ukip, one group of whose supporters favour going further thah IDS, is being supported by another group that would be the main target of their version of the War on Welfare!

Colier says, “It would be salutary for business to find that it had to train the existing workforce rather than poach trained workers from poorer countries: what is good for business is not necessarily good for the rest of us.”  Good to know he remembers some basic labour market economics, except British companies have a century old tradition (pre dating our entry into the EU) of poaching from each other.  In addition, Enoch Powell, when Minister of Health in the late 1950s was actively recruiting medical staff from the Caribbean to work in the NHS.  And, London Transport recruited Afro-Caribbean people to work on the Underground and the buses.

Amusingly, Collier, desirous of reducing migration to save the public finances, forgets that too often employers expect the taxpayer to train their existing workforce.  Meanwhile, whilst we await the Second Coming of Learning and Development and many British companies renouncing their devotion to ‘tried and tested’ Anglo Saxon business methods, the cost of building projects, many funded by the taxpayer will rise and rise.  And that is without factoring in the labour market impact of major construction projects like HS2.  And, every time we go into a recession, the first thing businesses usually cut is their learning and development budgets.

“The skills shortage problem is not unique to the UK.  Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, John Allan, says, “Many businesses across Europe are struggling to fill vacancies with appropriately trained staff.  The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work.” ” (second article).  Translation, there are increasing  job opportunities opening up for UK residents elsewhere in the EEA.  As an aside, I must find the Guardian article, wherein a careers adviser of 30 year’s standing remarked that employers at the start of his career had been saying, “The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work!”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Collier and White?

Michael, I am up for a grown-up debate on migration.  May be we may have one when you stop throwing out lines like, “Neither the right’s “crowding out” complaint about competition for low-skilled jobs (my Labour friend’s complaint too), nor the left’s “good for growth and tax receipts” scenario – shared by the City and big business – has much real evidence to support it.”  Comment is free, but facts are sacred, but not to the point where they must never be deployed, surely?  Where is your evidence to disprove either or both assertions?

Back in 2005, well before all this talk of swamping kicked in, there were 600 Cuban nurses working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Why?  Because of the demographic time bomb.  An aging population means an aging workforce.  ukip’s pensioner supporters are going to need to accept the fact that a migrant may be the only person available to clean up their sick in their care home? We are not talking about people elbowing others out of the way for jobs.  After all, migrants are rarely of pension age so they will in part compensate for the fall in the number of people in the working age population and, by paying tax, contribute towards the cost of the pensions of elderly people, including ukip supporting pensioners.

Collier of course says, “There is a good case for confronting their delusions and racism, and countering the misleading drizzle of anti-immigrant anecdotes, but this would not make them accepting of continued high immigration.”  How about, no migrant, no pension?  I think that might be the kind of sound bite that would hit home on the doorstep.

I was at a meeting with the QE Human Resources staff about six or so years ago.  A senior nurse recruiter said we have projected that very soon the NHS will need to recruit 50% of all school leavers to maintain its current staffing level.  Recessions come, recessions go and demographic changes remain relatively unaffected.  Of coursed, tightening public sector pension entitlement and raising the state pension age may go some way to responding to this issue.  however, actuaries have predicted that for every year working over 60, teachers reduce their life expectancy.  If they retire at 65 they run a significant risk of dying within a year.  I suspect neither Collier nor White expect to find themselves working to a point where it affects their life expectancy in such a dramatic way.

Michael, Collier is proposing that we engage in managing decline rather than take advantage of the benefits to UK plc of exploiting the opportunities presented by free movement of labour.  Opportunities for jobseekers happy to work abroad and vice versa.

By the way, Michael, that graduate you mentioned herein, “At one point in those 17 years a Labour MP, now dead, said to me: ”How can my young, unskilled constituents hope to compete for jobs with bilingual and highly-motivated foreign graduates?” It was a good point and I think of it every time I buy a beer or a coffee from one of those young graduates.”  Was he or she fluent in English?  Does it follow that he or she is at least bilingual?  That lots of tourists come to London (and Birmingham) and that having skilled, versatile staff who speak good English is good for the tourist industry (and UK plc)?  And if tourism spend increases then jobs growth results?  Have either you or Collier heard of the Multiplier Effect (see page 58)?  Incidentally, I am a Treasury standard Green Book Appraiser.

Might it not be a bad idea, if we helped “those (stereotypical) young, unskilled constituents to learn” a few other languages so they might look for work elsewhere in the EU?  Also, Michael, most employers do not look for vocational qualifications before recruiting so perhaps we should not be so quick to describe these stereotypes as lacking in soft skills?  And while we are on the subject of Europe, business and jobs why not read this post.

May be I am getting a bit cynical, but Paul Collier seems to be setting out to follow the trail blazed by Goodwin and Ford of Revolt on the Right Fame.  What they know about psephology and political campaigning, he seems to know about labour market economics and the UK Social Security system, but they are still making a mint out of ukip (and migration).  Migration is certainly improving the income of some people!

ukip Out To Worsen Conditions Of Temporary (Farm) Workers!

Migrants Price Local People Out Of Agricultural Jobs?

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