The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

9:44am on Friday, 8th April, 2005:

Immigrant Jobs


Last night, ITV news ran a State of the Nation report about immigration. One Ashley Goodman, HR manager of the Radisson SAS hotel in Glasgow, was an enthusiastic supporter of immigration on the grounds that British people wouldn't take the kind of menial service jobs available in hotels. Similar reasons were given for the preponderance of Eastern European bus drivers in Glasgow: the industry is thousands of jobs short, and if it weren't for the immigrants we'd have far fewer buses.

There's a word for this: exploitation.

The reason that people don't take jobs in hotels or driving buses is because those jobs don't pay well enough. If they did pay well enough, then locals would indeed take the jobs. That's how the job market is supposed to work: you pay people to do the job, and if it's a job nobody wants to do then you increase the pay until someone does want to do it. It's a supply and demand thing. The reason over-qualified immigrants will take such jobs is because the exchange rate is such that what's a low wage here is quite high when converted into their home currency.

This is a class system thing: "hotel workers are like servants, so they should be paid less". No, they shouldn't be paid less. Status has nothing to do with it; indeed, if they were paid a better going rate, it might have a positive effect on the class system. Suppose that wages did rise for hotel staff and bus drivers: yes, it would be galling for teachers to discover that they could get more money cleaning rooms or driving buses, but if it's that bad they can always go and clean hotels or drive buses themselves. They don't want to? Well they can shut up, then.

We see the opposite of this in action at the moment. Firefighters keep complaining that they are low paid in comparison to other public service workers such as police officers. They want higher wages, and are prepared to go on strike to get them. However, their case is undermined somewhat by the fact that there are on average 42 applicants for every vacancy. This is also why computer games programmers are paid less than regular programmers: more people want to work in the games industry than the games industry has jobs.

There are many reasons why immigration is good for a country, but maintenance of a discredited class system pecking order is not one of them.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).