10/28/2007

It's not migrant workers we should criticise

I know you don't have to go to London to understand the value this country gains from migrant workers, Indeed, here in Norfolk large elements of the economy are dependent on workers from the EU. Companies like Bernard Matthews, Kinnerton Chocolates and various others, most notably in food production and agriculture, are utterly dependent on workers from Poland and Portugal. However, I was astonished by the state of dependency on migrant workers in London.

Aside from when we went to the theatre (where all the staff appeared to be British), every bar, coffee shop, restaurant, indeed, even our hotel, was staffed almost exclusively by very well spoken, helpful and polite workers from the European mainland.

I know it must be easy for the "little England" brigades sat in rural Berkshire to moan about the influx of "foreigners", but we need to examine why it is that we now have hundreds of thousands of foreigners in this country doing jobs that British people could do, but why it is that 1.5 million British people would rather accept state benefits rather than go out to work.

The fact is that these migrant workers from the EU are not taking British workers jobs as people like to complain, in fact they do the jobs that too many British people feel are beneath them. What a terrible indictment of what our society has become that we pay people so very much to stay at home and do nothing. Then we seek to criticise those who come over here. uproot themselves from their families and friends, learn a new language and come to the UK to do jobs that British people are "too good for" .

I was reading my wife's magazine on the way home on the train yesterday and there was a story about a woman about 20 years of age. She has two children, gets £17,000 a year in benefits and was moaning that it was not enough.

It does make me wonder whether we need to be asking much more serious questions about how we have, in this country, allowed ourselves to believe that we have rights, but no responsibilities that go with them.

To my mind we should all be concerned about the fact that we can support and provide so much for so many people that care little for society, about their own self respect, and care not one jot about getting a job yet we have soldiers going out to fight for this country, who get wounded, and seem to get left with very little by the government.

Something has broken in this country, indeed in society as a whole, and it is difficult to see how it can be fixed.

6 comments:

Andrew Allison said...

Totally agree. I heard someone on the radio talking about Polish workers. He said they were twice as productive as their British couterparts. I'll give your post a link on my blog.

donpaskini said...

The main reasons why people accept benefits rather than go out to work are because they can't find a job, or they can't afford to work.

The wages which employers pay migrant workers who have no dependants are ones which it is impossible to support a family on. Could you live on a full time wage of £5.52 (or often less) per hour? (I know I would struggle to do so). Employers are going to hire people who are highly educated and are less likely to need to take time off work than someone who has been out of work for a number of years.

A lot of people on benefits have had a job, and then lost it soon afterwards because the support which helped them find a job was withdrawn and they couldn't cope with a crisis like debt or the illness of a child. This includes more than one in five lone parents.

The anecdote about the woman who gets £17,000 per year is like the stories in the tabloids about asylum seekers who get given council houses and all the rest - they are writing about it to get a negative reaction and precisely because it is unusual.

At a guess, you don't know the benefits which people people out of work can claim - might be worth looking them up, it's a lot less than you might think.

I think we need a welfare system which helps people who can work get jobs, and provides decent support for people who can't work. But we've tried blaming people for their own unemployment for at least the past 25 years, and it is a policy which has utterly failed. People need to take responsibility to find jobs, but government and employers also need to take their share of responsibility.

lee said...

Please do not be so judgemental on indigenous people who are claiming benefits. I speak from personal knowledge and experience and know that many people are unemployed because the economic base of their communities collapsed in the 1980s and there were no jobs for them to transfer to. Twenty years later they are either still claiming sickness benefit (they were bullied into claiming this so that they wouldn't appear on the unemployment figures)or are still unemployed. These people aren't lazy, it's just that the government doesn't care about them - they are no-one's priority.

Leesbbrown said...

This is just about employers paying the lowest they can for workers,and they get away with it because they can...i.e. the government will not get tough with employers on this issue and casts a blind eye to illegal practises [sub minimum wage,no tax,no N.I.] because they somehow believe it is good for the economy.Lots of local people would do this work if offered even at minimum wage,we never even hear about the vacancies they are all filled under the table.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I'm afriad this last point made is utter rubbish.

I can point you to four or five businesses who in Fakenham (my old council ward) have signs up all year round saying "staff wanted" whilst I saw similar signs all over London in pubs, restautants, Starbucks, Pter a Manger, Costa Coffee, etc.

Disgruntled DWP Drone said...

I have to agree with leesbbrown above. I've worked in Job Centres on the South Coast since the early Nineties so I've got a pretty good idea of how the local labour market (which is almost entirely service industries) operates.

The minimum wage is for the vast numbers of people who are working in the pubs, restaurants, and clubs in town, a myth. I've spoken to far too many people who've found that the 40 hour minimum wage job they've applied for (through us) is actually a 60-80 hour a week job that pays £3.50 - £4.00 an hour.

I've spoken to far too many employers who clearly have no interest in employing anything other than foreign labour because on the whole they will accept this.

I say on the whole because most of the complaints that have been made to me about sub minimum wage jobs have been made by recent immigrants who've felt that we're deceiving and exploiting them. We have been told on a number of occasions not to get involved or follow any of this up. It makes me feel very ashamed.

Only a tiny minority have gone on to make an official complaint and absolutely nothing is ever done about those. Nationwide I don't think that anyone has been prosecuted for breaking these employment laws ever.

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