Immigration: economic benefit, cultural and social reasoning
Posted on June 12th, 2016
The leave campaign seems to be focusing on immigration as an argument for not being in the EU. I guess that if Britain leaves the EU that it could effectively close its borders to migrants from anywhere, EU or otherwise and that sounds on the surface quite a seductive idea - British jobs for British people: an exclusive system for a closed country.
It's not so much finding justification for immigration but to say that it's not the burden on the state that its made out to be. Immigrants are supposed to be a drain on resources, in particular on the NHS, but that doesn't sound right. Why should immigrants be a drain on resources more than anyone else? If they work, they pay tax and therefore fund the NHS.
Immigrants are said to take away jobs from local people. It seems to be a common myth that immigrants are willing to do low-paid jobs, thus bringing down average wages and negatively affect other working people. If the pay were greater, would these jobs be filled from the 'local' population? And why are they not willing to do those jobs today?
Why do people with a low standard of living on unemployment benefit prefer to stay at home? What happened to the work ethic - going out to earn a living rather than getting free money. It's a moral choice: even if the money is the same - to prefer to make it rather than get given it for free.
The burden on the state is not therefore from working immigrants but the people who claim unemployment benefit when they should be working.
This situation does not last: once immigrants are integrated into the country and speaking the language they become less likely to accept meager wages because they yearn for a higher standard of living. Either they have the same outgoings as most people or are prepared to take a lower standard of living.
What indeed are these low wages? Surely not employers paying under the minimum wage? And those employers don't complain if they find people willing to work, nor do the customers who benefit from lower costs.
What would happen if immigrants did not do those jobs? Would they get done? Or if so at higher wages, costing customers more. Immigrants are considered an economic benefit in Germany.
The claim that we need immigrants to bring in outside skills seems quite surprising on the surface - surely we have the skills we need or could train for them? What about foreign languages? Or even engineering expertise from technologically advanced countries such as Korea, China, Japan or do we think we are the best at everything? In any case, immigrants bring us knowledge of the world and enrich our cultures.
Immigration improves our cuisine - look at how British food has developed over the last 40 years - we have been able to integrate great cooking from abroad and vastly improved the content, variety and interest value of our diets.
What about the social motivation for immigration? Not all migration is for economic reasons: many immigrants are due to war; refugees coming to a host country. How can we refuse these people who are fleeing misery?
As for economic migration such as from Eastern Europe people are merely looking for work and a better standard of living. The most logical solution to reducing poverty in eastern bloc countries is by investing in their economies. And this is what the EU aims to do so that Eastern countries will one day be strong trading nations, potential export markets.
However, I do not believe that people migrate to draw unemployment benefit. Who would uproot their family and move to another country only on that basis? Most people change location because they believe they can find work in the host country.
The EU should be organized so that if people pay taxes in their country of origin, they should be able to claim benefits in the host country, requiring the host country checking that the claimant had indeed paid taxes in their country of origin.
They say that immigrants change "our" culture. Are we against our culture changing? And are we so uncertain in our values that we would consider other cultures to be a threat to our own? What is our culture? Christian, Jewish, Muslim, nationalist, fads and fashions, literature, politics. Religious practice is not the only determinant of culture. Immigrants bring in not only skills but knowledge of the world from which we can learn.