SubScribe: Immigration and the Daily Express Google+

Thursday 2 January 2014

Immigration and the Daily Express

Ok, Ok. SubScribe is going on a bit about this. Sorry. 

Forget about living longer, the horoscopes and the obligatory celebrity. I'm looking at the WOB headline on the right, which is a teaser to this spread:

This really is one of the most disgraceful pieces of journalism I've seen in a long time. Apart from the token panel saying 'we want to work', the most honest word on the page is the 'could' in the main heading. The lead story begins:
"Almost one in five Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants will live on benefits, costing taxpayers almost £1.4bn, it emerged last night.
Experts estimate that 350,000 people will flock to Britain over the next seven years after restrictions on low-skilled workers from both countries were lifted yesterday.
But figures unearthed by the Daily Express have revealed the true potential cost of this stampede." 
The 'experts' who estimate that 350,000 will turn up are unnamed, but it's fair to assume that the basis for this figure is the pressure group MigrationWatch. The organisation, which  is not known for its enthusiasm about allowing outsiders into the country, has predicted that 50,000 a year could move here. But even it is restricting its estimate to the next five, rather than seven, years.

No one in authority has been willing to put a figure on how many Romanians and Bulgarians may wish to come here, but there is no reason to suppose that there will be a 'stampede'. The Express does acknowledge the lack of firm data in the next paragraph:
"The Government has no real idea how many will come and which benefits they will claim. When similar restrictions were lifted on Poland in 2004, experts said only a few thousand would arrive in Britain. In the event more than 500,000 turned up."
Presumably these experts were different ones from those whose crystal-ball gazing abilities are so trusted by the Express. There were 75,000 Poles living in Britain in 2003 and there are now indeed estimated to be 500,000. Many of those who arrived in this country after 2004 when the economy was buoyant - remember the scare stories about Polish plumbers? - returned home during the downturn after 2008.
"With the latest influx it has been left to observers to provide a panicked British public with a calculation of the potential impact on stretched public services like schools and the NHS."
There has, as yet, been no influx. Who caused the public to 'panic'? Who are these 'observers'? Who did these calculations 'unearthed by the Express'?

Oh, it looks as though it was the Express itself. And judging from the quotes within the spread, the observers and experts are none other than MigrationWatch and Ukip. Perfect.
"Of the 150,000 Romanians already here, 15% don't have a job."
It is hard to keep pace with the various statistics on how many Romanians and Bulgarians have arrived and how many are in work, since the ONS releases figures quarterly and tends not to break down immigration statistics by nationality. It has, however, said recently that 141,000 Romanians and Bulgarians are in employment here.

The latest official immigration figures showed that there were around 120,000 Romanians and 47,000 Bulgarians. These are out of date as there has been some acceleration in recent months - but no reliable statistics have been published to back up the claim that 15% of Romanians are unemployed.
"If a similar number of the fresh wave of migrants fail to find work it would leave around 52,500 reliant on handouts capped at £26,000 a year. The benefits bill could add up to £1.39bn over seven years."
Time to show your workings, I think.

Suppose we accept the Express figures and we now have 22,500 unemployed Romanians who are now entitled to 'handouts'. If they each receive the maximum of £26,000, that will cost us £585m this year.

If another 50,000 arrive, and if 7,500 of them fail to find work and if they, too, are given the maximum £26,000 in benefits, that would be another £195m for this year, making a total of £780m.

If a further 50,000 arrive every year until 2020 and if 15% of them fail to find work, and if they all receive maximum benefits (and if they remain capped at £26,000pa), the rolling bill might look like this:

2014: £780m
2015: £975m
2016: £1,170m
2017: £1,365m
2018: £1,560m
2019: £1,755m
2020: £1,950m

My goodness, the Express hasn't been anywhere near frightening enough. That gives us a total of
Always remember, you can make numbers do anything you want.

Gerard Batten, Ukip's home affairs and immigration spokesman, is appreciative of the Express's efforts:
"These figures reveal just what the UK will have to deal with."
But they still aren't scary enough for Mr Batten, who adds:
"It's also likely the predictions by MigrationWatch are rather conservative and this may prove to be a massive underestimate. 
As well as those who come to collect benefits there will be many more who come to work. Every job taken by a migrant is a job denied to an unemployed Briton. The UK jobs market is heading towards severe overcrowding."
Now that's a particularly interesting observation. The second story on the spread is about jobs available in this country being advertised across Europe.
"Fears that Romanians and Bulgarians will have the run of Britain's labour market appear to be coming true - with UK employers offering more jobs than other countries."
The story is accompanied by a table showing that there are 300,000 posts open in Germany, fewer than 5,000  in Romania and only 4 in Bulgaria. Britain is advertising just under 1.4m.

SubScribe is being a bit thick here. Are these vacancies, advertised on the EU's official jobs website, available only to Romanians and Bulgarians? Is this an attempt to recruit cheap labour in countries where our miminum wage may seem a fortune?

Didn't Mr Batten say the market was heading for severe overcrowding? You might think that if there are 1.4m jobs going, then we shouldn't have so many people out of work. Perhaps our unemployed don't fancy these particular jobs? Are the British too picky maybe? Are British employers finding it so hard to recruit at home that they are advertising wherever there might be willing workers?

This apparently includes Romania's main job site, where nearly 5,000 positions - including some for doctors, nurses, taxi drivers, mechanics and care workers - have been posted. Germany is seeking to fill about 2,000 vacancies and France 500.

The Express offers no details, such as pay rates, terms of employment, hours required,  but Mr Batten is obviously more clued up than the paper allows its readers to be, for he has it all sussed:
"These figures bear up what the critics have been saying all along. The relaxations of restrictions are only about importing cheap labour. Where people are coming here to work they are undercutting British workers, driving down wages and pushing up accommodation costs."
Funnily enough, Polly Toynbee gives weight to this argument in this Guardian column. But who at the Express would read her?

Batten's party leader, Nigel Farage, also smells a rat. He accuses other countries of failing to stick to the principles of the single market in advertising so few jobs, then in the same breath criticises the UK for abiding by the rules.

"Instead of concentrating on ensuring British people can get back into work, we're advertising these jobs to the whole of the EU and paying for the privilege."

The two picture stories are about real people - people from Bulgaria and Romania who say they want to come to Britain to work. The final element is a piece about the prospective burden on Kent.
"Thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians will descend on Kent through busy ferry terminals, pushing local services to breaking point, council chiefs fear."
A study for the county council expects what seems a comparatively modest number of 8,600 people from the two countries to settle in Kent over the next decade. This would cost council taxpayers an estimated £3m a year - although the newcomers would presumably contribute to that - and, according to the council leader, put pressure on schools, housing, and add to crime levels. A Romanian student says
 "Romanians don't come here for free money. If they come it will be for jobs British people don't want to do."

But the last word goes to Tina Saunders, 36, from Dover, who 'voiced the fears of many British-born residents'  when she said:
"Many of them are taking council homes from people like myself. We can't get on the list to get a house because they are being offered to foreigners first."
So the key quotes on the three policy stories on this spread come from the head of  MigrationWatch, the leader of Ukip and one of his spokesmen, a Conservative council leader and a random woman of whom we know nothing.

There is also a government comment in the £1.4bn story:
"These calculations are simply not credible. It's highly misleading to suggest everyone coming to this country claims or is entitled to benefits."
Yes, incredible and misleading. But even this token quote is about defending the Government's reputation against claims that it is a soft touch.

Whatever happened to objective journalism?

This is SubScribe's third post on this subject.  I am indebted to Peter Owen for alerting me to this Express spread. He has written to the paper about it and invites others to do the same. I cannot vouch for his statisics.

You can read the other two post here and here. I do hope not to return to the topic again too soon.

A new SubScribe website with archived blogposts and new features is being prepared and should be ready to make its first appearance at the end of the month. If you have any ideas of elements that should be included - or avoided - please get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or email. Thank you.



1 comment:

  1. Your points are well taken, if only because they underline how polarised the issue of unrestricted EU immigration has become, and how reluctant people are to engage in an objective, dispassionate debate.

    However, your point that 'there is no reason to suppose that there will be a 'stampede'' is clearly wrong, because their ARE objective reasons to suppose that might happen. Whether it will or not, only time will tell, but to deny the possibility is either delusional or a deliberate attempt to steer the 'debate' in support of a personal point of view.