By: Susan Howarth
As I embark on my morning commute for the umpteenth time in my year and half’s residence in London, I hold my breath in anticipation of the crowds of people’s bodies who will be pressed up against mine for the next 20 minutes. And keeping in my morning routine, I glance over to my nearest commuter, who peruses one of London’s more reputable papers – featuring a large, fierce-looking picture of David Cameron mid-pledge to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands”. Immigration, the issue that impacts a plethora of Brits on a very personal level has grown to such an astronomical height that it accounted for more than half (54%) of the increase of the UK population between 1991 and 2012*. And while my personal presence in the home of home of Harry Potter directly contributes to the bitter, muttering Brits, my assessment of immigration laws in England is split. On the one hand, my love for my Commonwealth brother country means I automatically defy any politician who wants to throw me out – and on the other, I have to consider that my stifling commute alone is indicative of the incredibly overpopulated nation I’ve learnt to call my home.
So why the London expatriate culture? What’s the appeal? And even more pressing, what’s the solution?
Firstly, without even referring to statistics it’s an obvious point that London holds the key to some of the greatest opportunities worldwide. Politically, socially, and the big one, working opportunities – are among the top reasons foreigners dream of passing Big Ben on their daily shuttle from an early age. The financial district within the City of London remains one of the world’s primary business locations – alongside New York. The job market within London is constantly growing and the financial market alone accounts for a large portion of these hires. So it’s fairly obvious why both EU and non-EU citizens are fleeing their below-average job markets to take residence in the land of plenty, where employment is practically a guarantee. In fact, statistics supporting that very fact have just emerged in an article by BloomBerg Business, identifying ‘work’ as the primary reason immigrants are coming to the UK. Two-thirds of those moving for employment actually had a job offer before they arrived**.
So perhaps partially, based on the above facts, the British bitterness towards immigrants is formed by the classic (and passé, mind you) perception that “Immigrants are taking all our jobs”. And with these statistics shining a beaming light on the expatriate culture within the London job market, you have to admit they’re not exactly wrong.
But we have to ask ourselves – is there anything so wrong about putting the right people in the right jobs? If the opportunity exists, what kind of restrictions can you legitimately imagine putting in place that prevent foreigners from working within the UK? Particularly relevant when it comes to skill-shortages, expats are playing a fundamental role in the continued cycle and growth of the UK’s healthcare and education industries – two major governmental priorities in accordance with Osborne’s budget release in July this year. It wouldn’t be presumptuous at all for me to say that the livelihood of London’s job market is dependent on several factors, the primary ones being consistency and quality work. I think that in order for London to maintain its status as the world’s most primary business location, the hub of start-ups and the home of opportunity, it requires consistent, good-quality work to fuel the fire that’s been burning since the 19th Century.
So what’s a little overcrowding when the economic benefits outweigh my comfortability on the morning commute? Studies have shown that the recruitment of skilled foreigners has allowed companies to become “more efficient and expand their business”, and that foreign workers employed in Britain are on average, better-educated and work longer hours than British recruits***. So maybe the immigrants areresponsible for taking a good chunk of Britain’s top jobs, but if they’re the better people for the position, is it justifiable for the UK to be bitter about remaining second choice?
It pains me that UK immigration laws are so harsh for the hard-working skilled workers of the non-EU. The education and talent that Commonwealth countries in particular bring to the table keep the industries that are so integral to the UK’s economic growth pumping with blood – but the struggle for us to stay past our expiration date is a challenge so taxing, many don’t bother to attempt a government fight. While EU citizens are able to stay, feeding off the opportunity that their Eurozone passport offers them, others fight the thoughts of a looming date, praying for a petition to challenge Cameron’s pledge, pleading for a simple glance at how the immigrants have impacted the system with their skill, knowledge and overall, hard work.
Cameron needs to assess the positive effect many immigrants have had in their UK jobs. And ask himself, that while perhaps Joe Bloggs from Swindon might be able to do the very same job, with the same rate of pay – would the job be done just as well? Don’t penalise the immigrants for being good at what they do by slamming a ‘best before’ on their Visas. Reward those skilled workers by giving them opportunity to grow and contribute to this lively job market we want to continue thriving. After all, according to studies backed by the government themselves, “Foreigners just work harder”.
*McNeil, R., 19th February 2014, The Impact of Migration on UK Population Growth in
**Lovasz, A. 30th July 2015, What You Never Knew About UK Immigration in
***Kirkup, J. and Dominiczak, P., 5th November 2013, Why hire foreigners? They just work harder in