Saturday, 22 December 2012

Seven Facts Everyone Should Know About Immigration

Immigration is in the news once again. Not that it ever leaves it. A complex issue made harder by distortions, stereotypes, and populism. One could argue that its social and cultural effects are the trickiest to articulate and hardest to pin down. Certainly not easy to capture in a dry opinion poll.

Its economic effects are somewhat easier to measure, as I intend to demonstrate. More often than not, we’re dealing with hard facts, not feelings. Assertions that can be backed up evidence, and not based on gut instinct or prejudice. Below are seven facts that everyone should know, but often don’t, about immigration. No doubt politicians of all stripes are aware of them. But, selective amnesia means conveniently dropping stats in favour of rhetoric.
1.      Effect on wages:  

The Migration Observatory, an independent organisation based at Oxford University, found the effect of immigration on overall wages at specific time periods to be extremely small. Between 1997-2005, a one per cent increase in migration to the UK born working-age population resulted in an increase of between 0.2-0.3% in average wages. For the period 2000-2007, a similar proportion of migrants led to a 0.3% fall in average wages.

There were however wage variations between different working-age groups resulting from immigration. It found that:
The greatest wage effects are found for low-waged workers. Each 1 percent increase in the share of migrants in the UK-born working age population leads to a 0.6 percent decline in the wages of the 5% lowest paid workers and to an increase in the wages of higher paid workers.”

2.      Effect on employment:
A number of empirical studies have shown there to be no significant impact in levels of unemployment from immigration to the UK. The first major study in this area, carried out between 1983-2000, did find:
“adverse effects on employment, labour market participation and unemployment of UK-born with intermediate education (defined as O level and equivalent) and a positive impact on employment outcomes of UK-born workers with advanced education (A-levels or university degrees).”  

Two very recent authoritative studies, one analysing data from 1975-2010, the other 2002-2011 - thus taking into account periods of low economic growth, as well as past and present recessions - found no impact on unemployment from immigration.

3.     Youth Unemployment:

There is no direct correlation between rising youth unemployment and Eastern European immigration to the UK since 2004, contrary to what certain reports have said. Jonathan Portes, director of the highly respected National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), disputes the findings of a report by the think tank MigrationWatch UK. The latter noted that between 2004-2011, youth unemployment rose by around 450,000, at the same time as an extra 600,000 Eastern European workers entered the UK. But, as Portes notes:
"The vast majority of that rise in youth unemployment took place during 2008 and 2009 [during the recession caused by the financial crisis]. During that period, the number of Eastern European workers actually fell.”

According to Matt Cavanagh, an associate director at IPPR:

“The countries in the 'old' EU which have seen the steepest rises in youth unemployment since 2004, including Spain and Greece, have not had very high levels of migration from Eastern Europe; while Germany, which has had relatively high migration from Poland (despite maintaining transitional controls for the longest possible period), has relatively low youth unemployment.”

   4.      Work-related benefits :
371,000 migrants claimed benefits in 2011. That’s 7% of the total migrant workforce, classified as non-UK nationals when they first arrived in the UK. This compares to a figure of almost 17% for all British nationals. According to Jonathan Portes, the figures on migrants and benefits can be summed up thus:
  • migrants represent about 13% of all workers, but only 7% percent of out-of-work claimants;
  • migrants from outside the EEA represent about 9-10% of all workers, but about 5% of out-of-work claimants
  • foreign nationals from outside the EEA represent about 4.5% of all workers, but a little over 2% of out-of-work benefit claimants.
A Department for Work and Pensions sample of 9,000 non-EU migrants found just 2% had made false benefit claims.

5.    Impact on public services: 

An NIESR report on non-European economic and student migrants in January of this year concluded that they:
impose costs on UK public services that are small both relative to the total cost of these services and to the share of these groups in the population as a whole.”

 It goes on to state that:
“The literature review indicates non-European economic migrants are likely to be comparatively light users of health and social care services due to their relatively young age profile, good health, their status as employees and presence in professional occupations.”

“In addition, the professional status and educational attainment of non-European economic migrants make it more likely that they will be consumers of private health and education in comparison to the population as a whole and so make fewer demands on public services.”

"Total expenditure on state education, health and personal social services accounts for 44 per cent of public services expenditure. The average expenditure per adult migrant for these services is estimated to be significantly lower than for non-migrants: expenditure per non-European economic migrant is estimated at between 16 and 23 per cent less than for non-migrants and for student migrants, between 41 and 49 per cent less.”
6.      Fiscal impact:
According to the Migration Observatory, the fiscal impact of migrants largely depends on their characteristics (age, skills, length of stay).  A Home Office report in 2002 estimated that for the 1999/2000 financial year, migrants’ made a net fiscal contribution (what they paid in taxes versus what they used in benefits and state services) of about £2.5bn.

In 2005, and covering five years of data, the IPPR think tank found that during the period when the government began to run a budget deficit, migrants were less of a drain on the public purse than the UK born population: 

In 2003-04, when the Government ran a budget deficit such that all taxpayers on average consumed more public benefits and services than they paid in taxes, the IPPR study found that the average immigrant cost the exchequer £74 in net terms compared to a net cost of £892 per UK-born person.”

In the four fiscal years following EU enlargement in May 2004 and the migration that followed, figures shows that:

  Migrants from the A8 countries made a positive contribution to public finance, despite the UK running a budget deficit.”
7.      Public Opinion: 

The public overwhelmingly disapprove of levels of immigration over the last decade, with 67% believing it’s been a bad thing for Britain. They support the government’s attempts to reduce net migration from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands. However, over three-quarters of them doubt this will happen.
But, according to Peter Kellner, President of YouGov:

  “There is a huge gulf between people’s perception of immigration as a national issue, and one that affects their own lives.”

Whilst immigration comes second (behind the economy) in terms of national importance, as viewed by voters, when people are asked to comment on issues which directly affect them, its level of importance shrinks from 45% to just 12%.  Kellner believes the best solution is for politicians to stop worrying about what voters tell them on this subject:

“Instead, they should work out what is right for Britain: for its economy and its society. They should do this honestly and openly, admitting that the task is complex, and that the problems are real and will take time to solve.”

Now that really would be a novel idea.

This article was first published by The Huffington Post on Saturday 22nd December 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas period means more victims of domestic abuse

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older, (speaking as a sprightly 33 year old), but, with each year that passes, my focus around Christmas time has started to shift from gluttony and gifts to things less jolly. Whether it be the number of people, young and old, who will be spending Christmas alone or on the streets, or families worrying how they’re going to afford presents for their kids.

This year my concern has been piqued by reports about incidents of domestic abuse. An increasing number of police forces are drawing attention to evidence which shows that, during the Christmas-New Year period, we can expect to see a rise in domestic abuse. More commonly referred to as domestic violence, the government defines it as: “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality."
Official figures show that one in four women and one in six men will experience a form of domestic abuse at some point in their lives. Although Women’s Aid, a charity which helps 250,000 women and children a year, claims these stats are somewhat misleading since they only include single incidents, whilst excluding the severity and frequency of the type of abuse. It also leaves out sexual assault, a crime overwhelmingly perpetrated against women by their previous or present day male partners.  On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.

As in previous years, Avon and Somerset Police are running their “Have the Christmas you deserve” campaign. On their website, you will find their “Don’t be a victim this Christmas” page. According to their own findings, last year, incidents of domestic abuse more than trebled over the festive period:
"Figures show that on an average day over the last year police were notified of approximately 1400 incidents of which 14 were domestic abuse related. Over the Christmas period last year there were about 914 incidents per day, of which 28 related to domestic abuse and over the New Year period, there were about 1295 incidents per day, of which 50 were DV related.

“These figures show a rise from an average day of one per cent of domestic abuse related incidents; to three per cent over Christmas and four per cent over New Year.”
Detective Inspector Katie Boxer from the force’s Public Protection Unit explains that:

“At this time of year there is often more drinking and more stress on families and this can lead to the types of scenarios when violence and abuse are more likely to occur.”
Similar campaigns have been launched in Northern Ireland, and by West Mercia and Humberside Police. Vicki Paddison from Hull’s Domestic Abuse Partnership (DAP) service believes a combination of factors provides this potentially toxic mix:

"People are at home. The stress and anxiety of Christmas is often raised, for many, many families but particularly where there is domestic violence evident.
"They've got the break-up of schools. The increasing pressure in terms of having to buy presents and food for the Christmas period, and that raises anxiety and stress within families. Which, ultimately increases the domestic abuse."

Domestic violence is widely acknowledged to be under-reported by its victims. Many regard it as a purely private matter and won’t report it, some are too afraid of going to the police, some feel trapped but don’t want to see their partner arrested, others may blame themselves for what happens.
Figures by the police (see p.45) show that 7.4% of all recorded crime in Avon and Somerset for 2011/12 was for domestic violence.  8,548 incidents were reported; a 3.9% increase on the previous year, puncturing the general pattern of a county-wide fall in crime. National research in 2007 discovered that almost 40,000 women in Bristol, aged between 16 and 59, have experienced some form of domestic violence. And yet, under-reporting means that, whilst officially there were 7,505 cases in 2010/11, this is believed to be well down on the true figure, estimated to be 26,195 incidents for the year.

Bristol City Council’s Crime and Disorder Strategic Assessment - the most recent of which was published in January - found that domestic violence was more likely to occur in some of the city’s more deprived areas: Hartcliffe, Easton, Lawrence Weston, and Southmead. It also commented on data released by the British Crime Survey (BCS) which found:
“Victims of domestic violence were more likely to experience repeat victimisation than victims of other types of crime. Repeat victimisation accounted for 73% of all incidents of domestic violence as measured by the 2010/11 BCS. Around 59% of the people who commit domestic violence are repeat offenders. Tackling prolific domestic violence perpetrators can have a large impact on crime reduction targets.”

It’s not only at Christmas that authorities notice a spike in domestic violence. Earlier this summer, Avon and Somerset Police warned about the possibility of a 25% increase during the Euro 2012 football championship, in particular, after England matches. This came as a result of a steep climb in cases during the 2010 World Cup, culminating in a 32% rise following England’s elimination to Germany on penalties. How terrifying that, for some people, their well-being is at greater risk every time England takes part in a national tournament.
This Christmas, because of problems with funding, there will be fewer professionals on hand to help. Last month, Channel 4 News revealed that one in five domestic violence centres has had to cut some of its services in the past year. Because some are so oversubscribed, between 275 and 300 women are turned away every day by the first refuge they approach.

Unfortunately, Andy Williams, Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for some of us.
Here is a link from the council website about domestic abuse services available in Bristol:

This article was first published by thisisbristol on Friday 21st December 2012

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

At last, Labour understands voters’ concerns on immigration

Ed Miliband is not someone who shies away from a challenge. He has demonstrated this admirably since becoming Labour leader. Getting to grips with the thorny issue of immigration is one thing. Getting to grips with his party’s record on the subject is another. This year he has attempted to do both.

It’s surely no coincidence he chose the week of the release of the latest batch of 2011 Census stats to give his second keynote speech on the subject. Official figures showed the biggest ten-yearly increase in population since the Census’ inauguration in 1801. An additional 3.7 million people now reside in England and Wales, with net migration responsible for 55% of this rise. Inevitably, this last figure got pundits talking and heads shaking. Unsurprisingly, because Labour was in office for most of this period, it has faced a barrage of criticism and been blamed for letting immigration spiral out of control.
Miliband has already conceded that Labour got certain things wrong. He has tried to reassure those who worry about high levels of immigration; about Britain’s ability to cope with such a large influx in such a short space of time. Back in June, he told an audience, at an event organised by the think tank IPPR, that people had every right to be concerned:
"Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration, does not make them bigots. Not in any way. They are anxious about the future.” 

He admitted that his party had lost touch with the real life experiences and worries of ordinary voters, acknowledging that anxieties were wrongly dismissed:

“Quite simply, we became too disconnected from the concerns of working people. We too easily assumed those who worried about immigration were stuck in the past. Unrealistic about how things could be different. Even prejudiced.

“But Britain was experiencing the largest peacetime migration in recent history. And people's concerns were genuine. Why didn't we listen more?
“At least by the end of our time in office, we were too dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price. By focusing too much on globalization and migration's impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth – and the people who were being squeezed. 

“And, to those who lost out, Labour was too quick to say ‘like it or lump it.”

Last week, he picked up where he left off. Once again, he delivered a speech which was measured and sensible in both tone and substance. Again, he returned to the theme of voter unease:

 “We must not fall into the trap of believing that to talk about people’s anxieties is to fuel them.”
This time he touched upon social and cultural matters: the crux of the problem for many people, the trickiest to speak about, and the hardest to measure using cold empirical data. 

“The capacity of our economy to absorb new migrants was greater than the capacity of some of our communities to adapt.”
“Of course immigration has always been unsettling. With new ways of life, new religions, new people in neighbourhoods. It takes time for people to get to know each other. The extent of change can intensify the anxiety.”

“But too often we were a bit optimistic. Thinking people’s connections with each other would just take care of themselves. That as long as the economy was doing well, that services were well-run, people would learn to get on together, and our common life would flourish automatically.
“And while the problems were real. Our solutions seemed too abstract. We talked about “shared citizenship”. But we did too little to tackle the realities of segregation in communities that were struggling to cope.” 

Slowly but surely Labour are skilfully tackling this issue. Ed Miliband has been very careful not to demonise or caricature, but to see immigration as a complex, multi-layered topic. One which leads to a number of sub-topics. Sometimes these are incorrectly conflated but, for now, Labour has the balance about right.

Robert Ford, lecturer in Politics at Manchester University, identified the pitfalls for left wingers confronting this issue:

 “Any proposal will be dismissed by commentators on the right as tokenism which does nothing to address the real issues, and by many on the left as pandering to prejudices which should be challenged. On top of this, the media will reinterpret any message on immigration and identity in terms of its own negative dominant narrative of segregation and division, regardless of whether this accurately reflects the content.” 
Over the course of last Friday, discussion was more focused on how this speech had been pre-spun, with heavy attention given towards integration, and a call for immigrants to know how to speak English, than its actual content. 

Stressing that those hoping to work in publically-funded, public-facing jobs, should be proficient in English, seems about as uncontroversial a proposal as one could suggest. People doing important jobs that involve dealing with the public need to be able to properly communicate with them. And yet, there are still some on the left who won’t even accept this, seeing it as “hollow populism.”

The commentator Suzanne Moore correctly tweeted about the importance of women from immigrant groups learning English: “I want people i.e. women to speak English. Without it they are often trapped at home, dependent on children to translate.”

I have written about what one academic has called the “culturally threatened” before. What certain left wingers see as economic grievances, decades of research has found to be:
“...a perceived sense of threat to the cultural unity of the nation – rather than economic threat – that is the strongest driver of prejudice, and also the desire for more restrictive immigration and asylum policies.” 

It is far easier and a lot safer to approach immigration from an economic perspective. To talk about it in terms of its effect on wages, jobs, and housing. The real challenge is to talk about it in terms of its effect on demographics and culture. Not an easy thing to capture in an opinion poll, hard to articulate, but something which people see with their own eyes. At long last, Labour seems to understand voters’ concerns on immigration.    

This article was first published by Shifting Grounds on Wednesday 19th December 2012

Friday, 14 December 2012

Census and council figures reveal Bristol’s sharp divide

The Census isn’t merely the release of a dreary set of statistics, or a chance for the right-wing media to whip us up into another national panic about how many more immigrants we’re being overrun by. It allows us to gaze into the not-too-distant past, to reflect on where we are as a society today, and to predict where we’ll be ten years down the line. As you may have seen, Tuesday saw the release of another batch of stats from the 2011 Census. The first wave of facts and figures were published in July.

In this post, I want to move beyond these headline findings, and look at another set of figures that merit close scrutiny.  Recent reports from the council have shown up some stark inequalities in Bristol, which I expect to be echoed when the full data for the 2011 Census is released. For example, compare the city’s most populous ward, Lawrence Hill, with its least populous, Stoke Bishop. We already know from figures out last month that Lawrence Hill’s 18,942 residents greatly exceed the city’s 12,235 ward average. Stoke Bishop comes in below the average, with 9,269 residents.
According to the Census, Bristol’s population as a whole grew by 38,000 - or around 9.8% - over the last decade. A much smaller increase, in fact, than I’d been expecting. (For comparison’s sake, the 2001 Census saw a tiny fall in the numbers living in Bristol: 390,000, just over 2,000 fewer than in 1991).

The latest council stats reveal that Lawrence Hill has seen a 44% increase (5,763) in its population, the second highest rise in the city, and with under-30s making up half the ward. In Stoke Bishop, under-30s make up a similar proportion (46%), but this number is swelled by the large volume of students who live there.
To get beyond the headlines, one has to delve into the findings of the council’s Neighbourhood Partnership Profiles. Introduced in 2008, NPPs group together two or three wards, and give a comprehensive breakdown of local concerns: anything from health and wellbeing, deprivation, to fear of crime. It is only when you carefully examine this document that the huge divisions in Bristol become apparent.

Whereas the problems identified in the neighbourhoods of Stoke Bishop, Henleaze and Westbury-on-Trym include high domestic energy use and above-average car use; in Ashley, Easton and Lawrence Hill, residents have to contend with above-average levels of deprivation, poorly insulated homes with health and safety risks, and problems with noisy neighbours and drunk and rowdy behaviour, to name just three. In one part of the city, over-consumption is the main issue; in the other, the issues are more about quality of life and basic safety.
Lawrence Hill is the most deprived electoral ward in the South West of England, and belongs to the most deprived 10% in the whole country.  60% of all children living there do so in poverty. Fewer than 4% of children live in poverty in Stoke Bishop.

Over 3,500 crimes were recorded in 2009/10 in Lawrence Hill, at an offence rate of 204.2 per 1,000 population. (A significant reduction from 2001/02 (420.5 per 1000). This compares to just 291, or 28.4 per 1000, in Stoke Bishop for the same period. Unsurprisingly, fewer than half of Lawrence Hill residents feel safe in their area after dark, compared to 75% of those living in Stoke Bishop.
In 2011, only 30% of 16-year-olds in Lawrence Hill got 5 GSCE’s at grades A*-C, including English and Maths. In Stoke Bishop the figure was more than treble that, at 94%. The council’s figures don’t take into account the type of schools that these pupils attended, although one can probably guess. Either way, Lawrence Hill’s score falls way below the national average achieved by state schools.

As of last year, a quarter of Lawrence Hill’s residents were in receipt of out-of-work benefits, double the Bristol average. These include such things as jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefit. The figure for Stoke Bishop is a paltry 2.2%.
Why am I bombarding you with all these statistics? For four reasons:

1.      Firstly, when people say we live in a divided city, these are some of the things they are talking about. It isn’t hyperbole, or empty political rhetoric designed to win votes.

2.      Secondly, this pattern of inequality isn’t a recent phenomenon. It’s been with us for a while, and therefore deserves more attention than it has received up to now.

3.      Thirdly, much of this deprivation, crime and underachievement take place elsewhere. That is, in areas most Bristolians rarely venture into. Most of us probably only see our own wards and the shopping areas around the city centre. So perhaps a little bit more media attention is justified.

4.      Finally, addressing some of these issues should form a large part of Mayor Ferguson’s brief. I’m all for shiny new stadiums and arenas and displays of cultural muscle, but successfully tackling inequality is the thing that will really change our city for the better. Everything else is just cosmetic.  
This article was first published on thisisbristol on Friday 14th December 2012


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bristol City should abandon its new stadium plans. For now.

Before I begin, let me disclose that I am a Bristol City fan and former season ticket holder. Cash flow permitting I intend to buy a new season ticket in the summer, irrespective of which division the club finds itself in. I was at Ashton Gate a few weeks ago to see a seven successive defeat keep the club rooted to the bottom of the Championship. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Over the weekend, I saw us trounced and humiliated by Wolves. Once again, the club finds itself in a relegation dogfight. Whether there’s any fight left in the dog remains to be seen. At this stage, and from what I’ve witnessed this season, I’m not particularly hopeful.

Which brings me on to the question of the proposed new ground at Ashton Vale, going as smoothly as these things normally do: legal wranglings, judicial reviews, and squabbling over wasteland, which as if by magic, has been miraculously declared to be worthy of “village green” status. Fans have been left angry and probably a little bewildered. So far the only beneficiaries have been, surprise surprise, the lawyers. The club is in for a long, arduous battle.
But, all this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. When the club first tentatively launched its plans for a new stadium, back in November 2007, already five years ago, its fortunes were in marked contrast to where they are today. Newbies in the Championship after promotion the previous season, and playing with that lack of fear that newly promoted teams often play with. The buzz around the place was palpable. They began November of that season in second place, losing only once in their opening 14 matches. With only eight games to go City were top. In the end, they finished fourth, losing to Hull in the play-offs final at Wembley. A horrible day. I was there.

Subsequent years later, an argument I heard countless times in the bogs at Ashton Gate – yup, you get to hear a lot queuing at the urinals -  is the club over-achieved in its first Championship season.

Expectations were rampant the following season. Typically when it comes to football, blind faith, a belief that anything is possible, took over: “we missed out on promotion last season, but you wait. This year we’ll be stronger and hungrier. We could almost taste the Promised Land of Premiership football, but were it not for one match, we’d be there, entertaining the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea at The Gate.” Or so the conversation went.
The then manager Gary Johnson did nothing to dampen the hype, targeting a top two finish. The club finished 10th. The following season, 10th again.  Then 15h. Last season 20th, only avoiding relegation thanks to a run of one defeat in ten. The stats don’t lie. Almost every season Bristol City have done worse than the previous one. Even the cup runs, often a needed distraction, had ended before they had even begun.

In short, the club isn’t in the best of health. Unsurprisingly, average home gates have tumbled. From just over 19,000 in 2007/08, dipping below 14,000 last season. Football can sometimes be a fairly predictable sport. Outside the Premiership, a club in poor form over a sustained period can expect a significant reduction in attendances.
Is this really the best time to be moving home? Football is littered with examples of clubs whose eyes have been bigger than their stomachs. Okay, that probably includes most clubs. But some have been more foolish than others. Darlington FC comes to mind as being the biggest disaster. Coventry another. Relegated from the Premier League in 2001, they moved in to a new 32,000 capacity ground four years later. They are currently playing League One football, with fewer than 9,000 attending a recent home match. There are others. However, I do accept that in Coventry’s case, its proposed move took place whilst they were still in the top flight. Bristol City’s wasn’t. It hasn’t been in the top division since 1980.

If it gets its way, it could soon be City fans rattling around a half-empty stadium. Do they really want to join the growing list of plastic, soulless, identikit, stadiums, named after some corporate non-entity, with match days resembling a day out at the American Football? Sponsored stands, with music blaring after goals scored. Heck, I’m surprised some clubs don’t hold up a sign telling fans when to clap and when to boo. Football panto for the over-sanitised generation. To be fair to the club, it has worked closely with the supporters trust in ensuring the new ground wouldn’t be like all the rest.
I’m not saying the club should give up altogether and never move. I was as excited as the next City supporter when plans were announced and images of the new stadium released. No doubt, even in the Championship, the first few home games would attract a near capacity crowd. But then the gloss would wear off as reality bites. 12,000 spectators in a spankingly new 30,000 seater stadium would start to look and feel depressing. The shine doesn’t last forever. This is a problem for football and its fans in general up and down the country. Short-termism always wins the day. And for that, fans need to accept a large chunk of responsibility. Wide-eyed optimism can soon give way to relegation, administration, or even liquidation.  

Moving now isn’t the right time. I have no doubt that at some point in the future it’ll happen. Ultimately, it’s what happens on the pitch that matters. The rest can take care of itself. And objections to a new ground will find themselves drowned out if Bristol City are playing Premiership football. Until then, the club should concentrate on avoiding relegation to the graveyard of English football.
This article was first published on thisisbristol on Tuesday 4th December 2012