Monday, July 24, 2006

Something extraordinary is happening in England

The government has just released information on National Insurance numbers granted to foreign workers, reports The Guardian. The numbers are simply astonishing. They represent the single largest change in England's ethnic mix in its recorded history.

In 2004, 439,000 foreign workers were issued with U.K. work visas. In 2005 that already breathtaking number had jumped to 662,000. This out of a total working population of some 30 million.

Most of the increase originated from the new EU members: Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In fact, Poland has now produced the largest ever single national group of entrants.

The government has massively underestimated the scale of eastern European migration. In 2003 a Home Office Study predicted that just 13,000 people would arrive each year from the new EU countries. Other EU countries were a little smarter and restricted the ability of these people to seek employment. In fact, only the U.K., Ireland and Sweden permitted full access to their jobs market.

The new arrivals are not spongers. Quite the reverse in fact. Only 3% claimed benefit last year and anecdotal stories abound of these workers putting the local population to shame with their work ethic.

Next year Romania and Bulgaria are set to join the EU with 30 million citizens between them.

This 'open door' policy on immigration may be great for today's middle classes (as the cost of lattes, cleaners and nannies are kept low) and for Business (wages are being kept below the rate of inflation by the arrival of so many skilled workers), but it is dire for the skilled working class who have seen their wages massively depressed and their jobs become more unsecure. Additionally, there are signs that the economy just cannot accommodate so many new workers and unemployment has risen by 120,000 over the past 12 months.

The effect on the local environment of the South-East is perilous. Despite average rainfalls within historic norms, there is an acute drought in the South-East. Accommodation is in short supply pushing prices above affordable levels for most workers.

There is only one MP brave enough to speak out. Frank Field made the prescient warning that "it is only because the BNP are so inept that the debate has not taken off."

If the mainstream parties do not address this issue, it will not be long before someone comes up with an ugly solution.