This Sceptic Isle: Why Noone’s Stealing Your Job

[Excerpted from a piece for this weekend’s Morning Star]

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle…This happy breed of men, this little world, /This precious stone set in the silver sea, /Which serves it in the office of a wall /Or as a moat defensive to a house, /Against the envy of less happier lands,– /This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
– Richard II, Act II Scene I

The ideological battle over immigration raged on this week, with big-business think tank CentreForum’s spirited defence of the admission of international students.

The group put out a report on Monday which criticised the government’s plans to halve immigration levels over the next four years through a combination of tougher English-language tests, fewer entitlements and possibly repealing graduates’ right to work for up to two years here after completing their studies.

Centreforum’s report focused primarily on the effect of reduced immigration on the “pathway provision” sector, which assists international students with their studies and employs around 12,000 people.

The report found that the vast majority of international students currently in Britain would not meet the government’s proposed English standards, stripping the country’s universities of about £600 million a year in revenue overnight.

It also noted that these students inject up to £1.34 billion into the economy just by paying their own living costs – no doubt keeping another few thousand British citizens employed.

Yet Centreforum’s critique was much more circumspect about the impact of work restrictions on international graduates – the main thrust of Immigration Minister Damian Green’s promise to “give British graduates the best chance of success.”

But it’s all the more important with such emotive issues of race and social upheaval at stake that we get a few things in perspective.

There is a real graduate unemployment crisis: the Office for National Statistics reported in January that graduate unemployment was at a 15-year high, with one in five graduates currently out of work.

That’s more than double the general unemployment rate – and while recent graduates have always trended higher than the general rate, the latest spike is enough to have the government running scared.

The good news is that those graduates who have got jobs have managed to keep them, as those who graduated two to six years ago still have a significantly lower unemployment rate than the general population.

The bad news is that the latest spike in unemployed recent graduates seems to suggest the job market is now running out of room.

The past year has seen a score of unnerving headlines for jobseekers, from the Guardian’s claim in June that there were 70 applicants applying for any given vacancy to BBC reports of frozen starting salaries and a third of internships – vital to catching a prospective employers’ eye – now offered unpaid.

It’s no surprise that after three years of promised recoveries, people are beginning to demand an explanation – and a solution.

But the evidence for international graduates taking British jobs is circumstantial at best.

[To read the rest, just click through to The Morning Star’s website. I’m sure you understand; contractual obligations and all that.]

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