IN today’s dire economy, immigration is increasingly seen as a cause of social problems. But not only do the ideas put forward by the Government not address the problems, they’re also an insult to hard-working, low-income earners who are putting tax revenue into government coffers.
I couldn’t help but baulk at the recent announcement by immigration minister Damian Green, who wants all non-EU immigrants to be commanding salaries of £31,000 and above. If you aren’t “adding to quality of life in Britain” in this way he said, the UK doesn’t want you living and working within its borders. It is the sort of ill thought out pronouncement made only by a person who has never tried to get a job in a recession or in an industry that is contracting, and has only ever worked in London or the surrounding area.
I’m not saying that immigration is not a major issue in Britain. There are lots of Brits out of work who resent the fact that they are fighting for jobs against scores of immigrants. But Mr Green’s focus on non-EU immigrants is misguided. Anyone who has spent any time in the UK will recognise that it is hard-working Eastern European immigrants who have managed to secure many of the low-skilled jobs across the four nations. I’m not suggesting the government should “go after” this group, but it is well documented that Eastern Europeans have come to the UK in larger numbers than non-EU immigrants.
Mr Green said Britain doesn’t need any more “middle managers”, and that is why new immigrants should be high-earners. It’s not “middle managers” that the minister should be going after. I would suggest it’s the thousands of illegal immigrants who are not paying tax he should be focusing on.
Second of all, wisely or unwisely, many people who come to the UK choose to work in fields that don’t pay well. My situation is a case in point. Anyone who has worked in journalism outside London will not be surprised to hear there are very few employees in my line of work who make more than £31,000. There are many other non-EU immigrants, such as nurses and hospital cleaners, who earn very little money but who are providing a valuable service to the country. Commanding a high salary is not the top priority of everyone on the planet. Some people are content to put a roof over their head and food on the table.
This requirement also doesn’t address the fact that there are thousands of people who settle in this country with very little money, but through hard work and entrepreneurial spirit are able to eventually build up businesses which go on to thrive. Like many non-EU immigrants, throughout the time I have lived in the UK I have dutifully paid income and council tax (without, I should add, recourse to public funds – it says so on my work visa). Should I now be apologising to Britain that my salary has not yet reached Mr Green’s magic number? It should also be noted that a salary of £31,000 is a very different thing for a London-dweller and someone who lives in a less expensive area of the UK.
Here in Swansea, someone who makes that kind of money is practically bourgeois. It’s the same situation in the north of England, I’m sure. Someone in Wales or the North East on a salary of say £23,000 would probably be just as well off as a London resident on £31,000 if you consider the added costs of living in the English capital.
I do hope that the government will be able to address all the social problems caused by immigration. I just think Mr Green’s £31,000 target for non-EU immigrants is condescending to people trying to make a decent living and unfair to people living outside London.
This piece first appeared at rebeccaconnopprice.com