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Mark Ellse: If we worked harder we would not need masses of migrant labour

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It is not hard to see the real reason for the record levels of immigration into the UK. True, our membership of the EU plays a part but it is far from the whole story. Long term immigration from other countries exceeds that from the EU. Stopping free movement of labour from the EU will still result in a level of immigration more than twice that of twenty years ago, certainly not low enough to satisfy many.

One could say that high wage rates and lavish social security are the driving forces. These almost certainly have an effect. Life for those employed is very comfortable in the UK but, though part of the story, this fails to account for the whole picture.

Undoubtedly the last Home Secretary, just like our last Prime Minister, made all the right noises about immigration, to absolutely no effect. Perhaps Theresa May’s primary aim in the Home Office was to ‘polish up the handle so carefully‘ in mind of future promotion. One cannot suggest that immigration levels were due to May’s incompetence. They predate her time in that department and, whatever one says about Theresa May, she is not a complete fool. Home Office failure did not actually cause the high level of immigration.

In fact, as all immigrants know, if anyone with any ability or initiative gets to the UK they are guaranteed employment. That is why they come. Look around you. There is the odd Eastern European beggar on the street but the vast majority of immigrants are in employment. In so many jobs there is scarcely a Brit to be seen. Immigration into the UK is a consequence of a succession of political decisions that have deprived us of our own labour. UK employers rely on immigration to satisfy their demand for workers. It is a simple as that.

It may be blue sky thinking but it is worth just imagining what one might do were one to remedy this problem.

  1. Starting immediately, raise the state pension age by 1 month every 2 months until it reaches 75. Combined with the measures below, that would retain an extra 2 million within the workforce within 5 years. This is not a new idea, only an acceleration of an existing one.
  2. A windfall tax on all public sector pensions to be paid during any retirement period before the age of 65, this age to increase by 1 month every 2 months until it reaches the age of 70. As well as providing a strong incentive for those in their 50s and 60s to remain in the workforce it would reduce the invisible debt of current unfunded public pensions. Remember that it is the better paid public sector workers who most retire early. Consider the number of doctors and teachers that one would retain.
  3. An immediate increase of, say, 2 per cent in the contracted employment hours of all workers, and a pro-rata reduction in pay rate, this increase to rise to 5 per cent within five years. This is equivalent to an extra 1.5 million  in the workforce with no reduction of income for those employed.
  4. A working week of 40 hours in the public sector and a progressive reduction of the holiday entitlement of all public sector workers down to a maximum of 35 days per year. In addition, the abolition of flexitime in the public sector. In the NHS alone, this measure and that above create the equivalent of 220,000 extra employees, meaning that this number fewer would needed from overseas. At the same time it would save around £9 billion a year. Throughout the public sector this would free up an extra million workers.
  1. There is little evidence that spending longer in education has much any economic value. GCSE examinations should be brought forward to age 15, which would be the new minimum school leaving age. State-funded university education to be reduced to 2 years within which time universities would be required to deliver bachelor’s degrees and teacher training courses. This means an extra 1.5 million moved from education into the workforce.
  2. A continued reduction in the generosity of benefits to increase the incentive to do those jobs which, like fruit picking, that Brits are reluctant to take. Expect half a million fewer to be unemployed.

So there we are. Hardly rocket science is it? We start work a little earlier in life, work a few more hours and retire a little later. We create 6 or 7 million more workers even without changing the birthrate. The deficit disappears and we no longer need immigration. It is standard stuff really and any chief executive taking over a large, run-down business would make exactly these changes.

A Thatcher could take the Conservative Party in this direction, but the Mays of this world seem to prefer popularity. They may be right. After all, what did Jean-Claude Juncker say? ‘We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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