They took our jobs! An immigrant’s view on immigration – Part 1

 The truth is I’m an immigrant and like most immigrants I have become so out of necessity, not desire.  Faced with one of the toughest job markets of the past several decades I packed my knapsack and left Ireland, joining the thousands of graduates in search of a brighter future abroad. I didn’t have to travel too far and soon settled in Scotland where I have been living and working for the past year.

Immigration is a highly emotive and divisive issue, which can be viewed differently depending on a person’s economic, political or cultural perspective. The stance most economists take on immigration essentially boils down to simple maths. Do they contribute more to society than they take out?  My salary which is paid by the NHS is subject to income tax and council tax. These taxes are a source of revenue for the Scottish government which (hopefully) is used to pay for a range of public services including roads and lighting, education and social welfare. What is left of my income after taxes and savings, I tend to spend on domestic goods and services like public transport, cups of coffee at local cafes as well as dry cleaning and other services.  As a net contributor to society I am helping to keep bus drivers, baristas, shop assistants and others employed, while at the same time supporting those in society who are least well off. So on aggregate, as long as immigrants are net contributors, economists welcome them with open arms.

From a political perspective the sentiment towards immigration becomes less definitive.  It’s probably reasonable to assume that the general public or median voter has some preference for job security. Therefore a political party that is seen to protect or indeed create domestic jobs, particularly during challenging economic times is likely to gain support and curry favour with the public. Europe, which is currently battling deflation and mass unemployment as a result of 2007 financial crisis, is witnessing a rise of rightwing nationalist parties, keen to exploit public fear by linking Europe’s current distress with lax immigration policies and the influx of cheap labour. Geert Wilders, the Dutch right wing politician and leader of the Party for Freedom, has built an entire career on anti immigration rhetoric, blaming certain religious and ethnic groups for the decline of Dutch culture as well as being the prime cause of unemployment. Perhaps more concerning is the growth in popularity of extreme right wing ideologies. Golden Dawn, Greece’s ultranationalist political party, overtly advocates racist and xenophobic ideals. Their motto “Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn” is laced with certain neo-Nazi zeal.

Although extremely worrying, the current rise in radical rightwing ideology is hardly surprising. Economic hardship gives rise to public fear and uncertainty which in turn prompts opportunistic politicians to pander to these fears, whether or not there is any rational basis for doing so. You may think that parties like the Golden Dawn will never gain meaningful traction; however one only has to look as far back as the 1930s to be reminded of the evils of ignorance.

Keep an eye out for part two where I will discuss the truth behind immigration and highlight the benefits and challenges it brings

By Brian O’Toole

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