Immigration Good or Bad for Economy

IMMIGRATION is a sensitive subject at the best of times, and this is not one of them. The economic crisis has destroyed millions of jobs in rich countries, making their governments especially touchy about the impact of immigration on the demand for indigenous labour.

Such concerns are illogical, because immigration is counter-cyclical. Recession in rich countries has discouraged some would-be incomers from trying their luck. America, for instance, has seen a sharp decline in Mexicans trying to cross its southern border. Immigration to Europe has slowed. Some studies also suggest that increased inflows of migrants are a leading indicator of a pickup in growth.

Yet governments are often reluctant to leave migration flows to the labour market. In recessions, they tend to take steps to discourage new migrants and even get rid of existing ones. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has imposed a “migration cap” for those from outside the EU.

Concerns about immigration are understandable, especially at a time when jobs are in such short supply. Polling in both Europe and America suggests that a majority of locals think immigrants do more harm than good and damage locals’ chances in the job market. Evidence that immigration hurts indigenous workers is, however, weak. In seasonal work and construction, cheap foreign labour can depress wages and make it harder for the low-skilled to find work, but the flexibility and willingness of new workers can also boost productivity and encourage innovation

Strains on public services can sorely test the patience of locals, especially when budget cuts are making it hard to maintain such services. In Britain, for instance, a contingency fund to help cash-strapped local authorities facing pressure on public services has been scrapped. Yet over time immigrants more than repay the extra short-term burden they impose on education, health and other budgets.

Politicians often say that they want a sensible debate about immigration; but too often they pander to voters’ fears of immigrants rather than attempting to allay them. They should be particularly wary of doing so now. There is growing competition for their skills elsewhere (read this article). Asia is fast becoming the new magnet for migrants.

China, which used to be closed to immigrant labour, is now handing out residency permits to professionals, academics and entrepreneurs. In 2009 Shanghai recorded 100,000 foreigners living there. A similar number have settled in the southern port of Guangzhou, drawn from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. South Korea has also witnessed a rise in incomers since 2007 and is particularly keen to attract American-educated graduates.

Immigration is, on the whole, good for economies; and right now, rich countries can do with all the economic help they can get. Rather than sending immigrants home, with their skills, energy, ideas and willingness to work, governments should be encouraging them to come. If they don’t, governments elsewhere will.

Protests against state of the Economy

From New York to London, protesters have taken to the streets. Whether they are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York or by the indignados in Madrid, they burn with dissatisfaction about the state of the economy, about the unfair way that the poor are paying for the sins of rich bankers, and in some cases about capitalism itself.

In the past it was easy for Western politicians and economic liberals to dismiss such outbursts of fury as a misguided fringe. In Seattle, for instance, the last big protests (against the World Trade Organization, in 1999) looked mindless. If they had a goal, it was selfish—an attempt to impoverish the emerging world through protectionism. This time too, some things are familiar: the odd bit of violence, a lot of incoherent ranting and plenty of inconsistency (read this article). The protesters have different aims in different countries. Higher taxes for the rich and a loathing of financiers is the closest thing to a common denominator, though in America polls show that popular rage against government eclipses that against Wall Street.

Yet, even if the protests are small and muddled, it is dangerous to dismiss the broader rage that exists across the West. There are legitimate deep-seated grievances. Young people—and not just those on the streets—are likely to face higher taxes, less generous benefits and longer working lives than their parents. More recently, houses are expensive, credit hard to get and jobs scarce—not just in old manufacturing industries but in the ritzier services that attract increasingly debt-laden graduates. In America 17.1% of those below 25 are out of work. Across the European Union, youth unemployment averages 20.9%. In Spain it is a staggering 46.2%. Only in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria is the rate in single digits.

It is not just the young who feel the squeeze. The middle-aged face falling real wages and diminished pension rights. And the elderly are seeing inflation eat away the value of their savings; in Britain prices are rising by 5.2% but bank deposits yield less than 1%. In the meantime, bankers are back to huge bonuses.

Turning a blind eye

The secret life of the UK's biggest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange has been uncovered today revealing that 98 out of 100 are using tax havens. ActionAid's research show for the first time just how deeply embedded this practice is for nearly all of Britain's top multinationals.

 Corporate tax avoidance, which is one of the main reasons companies use tax havens, is having a massive impact on rich and poor countries alike. Developing countries currently lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.

ActionAid's report Addicted to tax havens shows banks are doing a brisk business via tax havens, despite the ongoing repercussions of a global financial crisis they helped to create. The banking and financial sector are by far the heaviest users with the ‘big four' High Street names HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Group and RBS notching up 1,649 tax haven companies.

Chris Jordan, ActionAid's tax justice expert said: "ActionAid's research showing the use of tax havens by Britain's biggest companies raises serious questions they need to answer.

"Tax havens have a damaging impact on the UK exchequer, the stability of the international financial system, and vitally on the ability of developing countries to raise tax revenues which would lift them out of poverty and make them less dependent on aid."

ActionAid's key findings:

•98 multinationals declared tax haven companies. The banking sector makes heaviest use of tax havens, with a total of 1,649 tax haven companies between the ‘big four' banks. They are by far the biggest users of the Cayman Islands, where Barclays alone has 174 companies.

•The biggest tax haven user overall is the advertising company WPP, which has 611 tax haven companies.

•A quarter of the 34,216 companies set up by FTSE 100 multinationals are located in tax havens.There are over 600 FTSE 100 companies in Jersey (more than in the whole of China), 400 in the Cayman Islands and 300 in Luxembourg - all tiny tax havens.

•Only two little-known companies Fresnillo and Hargreaves Landsdown, don't use tax havens

 The use of tax havens facilitates tax avoidance and evasion, which undermines the revenue bases of both developing and developed countries. Additional revenues are urgently needed both to invest in the fight against poverty and to tackle the deficits incurred during the financial crisis in rich countries.

 Chris Jordan continued: "When multinationals use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share, ordinary people in both poor and rich countries are left to pick up the bill. Spending on doctors, nurses and other essential services gets cut for those who need it most.

 "Tax havens might provide the lure of financial secrecy and low tax rates for big companies, but at a time when all countries are desperate for revenues, the UK government can't afford to turn a blind eye."
ActionAid is calling on the government to urgently rethink its current proposals to relax UK anti tax haven rules. The Treasury itself estimates these changes will result in an £840 million tax break for multinational companies that use tax havens.

 With both developing and developed countries bearing the brunt of debilitating losses, ActionAid says the UK must ensure that G20 takes the decisive action it promised on tax havens at the London summit in 2009.

The World vs Wall Street‏

Thousands of Americans have non-violently occupied Wall St -- an epicentre of global financial power and corruption. They are the latest ray of light in a new movement for social justice that is spreading like wildfire from Madrid to Jerusalem to 146 other cities and counting, but they need our help to succeed.

As working families pay the bill for a financial crisis caused by corrupt elites, the protesters are calling for real democracy, social justice and anti-corruption. But they are under severe pressure from authorities, and some media are dismissing them as fringe groups. If millions of us from across the world stand with them, we'll boost their resolve and show the media and leaders that the protests are part of a massive mainstream movement for change.

This year could be our century's 1968, but to succeed it must be a movement of all citizens, from every walk of life. Click to join the call for real democracy -- a giant live counter of every one of us who signs the petition will be erected in the centre of the occupation in New York, and live webcasted on the petition page:

The worldwide wave of protest is the latest chapter in this year's story of global people power. In Egypt, people took over Tahrir Square and toppled their dictator. In India, one man's fast brought millions onto the streets and the government to its knees -- winning real action to end corruption. For months, Greek citizens relentlessly protested unfair cuts to public spending. In Spain, thousands of "indignados" defied a ban on pre-election demonstrations and mounted a protest camp in Sol square to speak out against political corruption and the government's handling of the economic crisis. And this summer across Israel, people have built "tent cities" to protest against the rising costs of housing and for social justice.

These national threads are connected by a global narrative of determination to end the collusion of corrupt elites and politicians -- who have in many countries helped cause a damaging financial crisis and now want working families to pay the bill. The mass movement that is responding can not only ensure that the burden of recession doesn't fall on the most vulnerable, it can also help right the balance of power between democracy and corruption. Click to stand with the movement:

In every uprising, from Cairo to New York, the call for an accountable government that serves the people is clear, and our global community has backed that people power across the world wherever it has broken out. The time of politicians in the pocket of the corrupt few is ending, and in its place we are building real democracies, of, by, and for people.

Poor students are still being left out

A new government report shows that nearly one in four universities failed to meet their own targets to recruit more poor students last year. In total, 44 institutions, including 23 universities, five of which are elite universities, did not meet their own goals in 2009/10. The figures are included in the Office for Fair Access’s (OFFA) fourth monitoring report, which looks at how much money universities and colleges are spending, and how well they are doing at attracting and supporting candidates from poorer backgrounds. It shows that overall, English universities and colleges received £1.57 billion in additional fee income in 2009/10. This is additional fee income gained from tuition fees charged above the basic rate of £1,285. The maximum fee in 2009/10 was £3,225.

OFFA’s report shows that a quarter of this extra income (25.1%) – £394.7 million – was spent on recruiting and supporting poorer candidates, with £355.7 million going on bursaries and scholarships. In return for charging above the basic fee rate, institutions must submit access agreements to OFFA setting out how they plan to help poorer students. This includes setting their own targets on increasing the numbers of applicants or entrants from poor or under-represented groups. The report raises concerns that while 77% of institutions have either met or exceeded all or most of their targets, 23% (44 in total) are falling short.

OFFA director of fair access Sir Martin Harris said: “The large majority of universities and colleges are also meeting their statistical targets. Where they are not doing so, I am concerned to understand the reasons why. “Over the coming months, we will therefore be discussing performance with a range of institutions, including those that have reported the least progress.”

The report shows that more students are receiving financial support, but the average bursary awarded is smaller. Three-quarters (75%) of money spent on bursaries and scholarships in 2009/10 went to students from the poorest backgrounds, helping more than 271,000 youngsters on full state support. On average, these students receive a bursary of £935 a year, down from £942 in 2008/09 and £1,019 in 2007/08.

Sir Martin said institutions can decide to give funding to “more or less everybody” or decide it is only for students on the very lowest incomes. “What we’ve tried to do is encourage universities to focus money more on students that are genuinely disadvantaged,” he said. Smaller average bursaries are “going in the wrong direction”, Sir Martin suggested. “It is better to focus more on students whose income level is particularly low.” He added that the latest report is for 2009/10 and universities are likely to be encouraged to focus on giving large sums to smaller numbers of very disadvantaged students in the future.

Induction for Overseas Doctors

News that the General Medical Council (GMC) is planning an induction programme for doctors who are new to the UK has been welcomed by healthcare employers.
In its first "State of medical education and practice" report, the GMC reveals that approximately 12,000 doctors from around the world start work in the UK for the first time every year. Of the 239,270 doctors that were on the medical register last year, just over 150,000 qualified in the UK. A further 23,000 trained initially in the European Economic Area (EEA) and 66,000 completed their medical undergraduate education overseas.
But, while overseas doctors have helped employers to address skills shortages, there have been some examples of language difficulties, and differences in expectations of UK medical ethics and culture compared with overseas. Language was one of the difficulties cited in the case of Dr Daniel Ubani, an out-of-hours doctor from Germany, who was found guilty of gross negligence and manslaughter after the death of a patient he injected with 10 times the recommended maximum dose of diamorphine in 2008

Hands off Our Pension

The country's three largest trade unions — Unite, Unison, and the GMB — joined the Fire Brigades Union in announcing they will ballot their members over a coordinated programme of industrial action in protest at proposed changes to pensions.

It could see hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers, and millions across the UK, downing tools in November.

The mass walkout has been pencilled in for November on the date Chancellor George Osborne is expected to give his pre-Budget report.

Mike Arnott, secretary of the Dundee Trade Union Congress, said there is widespread anger over plans to increase workers' pension contributions.

"If this is well coordinated then it will have a massive impact," he said. "There will be more people coming out than in the General Strike 85 years ago. There is a huge amount of anger."

Mr Arnott, a member of the GMB, added: "We are not one of the most radical unions so when they get annoyed it indicates there will be a massive response."

He added that he disagreed with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said the unions should not threaten industrial action while negotiations over the proposed changes to pensions are continuing.

"We have to kick the negotiations on by taking some action. People are talking about paying another 3.2% into our pensions but it's not going into the pot — the money will go to the government and we'll get less in our pension. It is quite horrendous."

Riots and condemnation without context

very eloquently written by John Wight

Just as the explosion of social unrest that has engulfed working class communities all over London are a predictable outcome to the enormous economic and social pressure said communities have been under as the Tory-led coalition government doles out its punishment to the poor and the working class in response to an economic recession not of their making, and with the tension that has long existed between the alienated youth of our inner cities and the police, so has been the response by the political class and mainstream commentators.

Condemnation without context has been the stock in trade of those sitting at the apex of society, as they seek to explain away the unrest as nothing more than “wanton acts of criminality” or the actions of “mindless thugs”.

While this may be the accepted truth according to the norms of polite society, it fails utterly to get at the root causes. But no one should be under any illusion that this failure is the product of ignorance. On the contrary it is exactly as intended. Assorted right wing commentators and politicians clearly have a vested interest in refusing to admit their own culpability in shaping a society more unequal than at any time since Charles Dickens was in his pomp as a searing critic of Victorian barbarism in the treatment of the nation’s poor and working class over a century past.

In the name of NHS Reforms

The Government is planning huge changes in the NHS.  In the past few weeks it’s had to amend some of its proposals, because of opposition from NHS workers, the trade unions, the Labour Party, and the general public. But most of what the Government wanted to do, it’s still doing. The NHS is in grave danger.


The Government wants to scrap SHAs and PCTs by April 2013. In fact SHAs and PCTs have already started restructuring, downsizing, and making staff redundant.

Instead of having SHAs and PCTs to coordinate local NHS services, the Government wants to hand over the health budget to groups of GPs. These groups were originally going to be called “GP consortia”. Now the name has changed to “clinical commissioning groups”. The groups will have to have a token doctor and nurse on their board, but they’ll still be GP-run. Other parts of the NHS workforce are unlikely to get a look in.

These GP groups would have to buy the services they want direct from providers, which is a bad idea. GPs would be put in an awkward position, because they’d control the purse-strings. GPs would have more opportunities to make money off the NHS. They may even be allowed to charge patients for services currently provided free on the NHS.


The Government says it “strongly expects that the majority of remaining NHS trusts will be authorised as Foundation Trusts by April 2014″. Foundation Trusts are semi-independent organisations. They have more ability to change staff terms and conditions. More Foundation Trusts means a worse deal for patients. The Government wants to allow Foundation Trusts to take in as many fee-paying patients as they like. NHS patients would be pushed to the back of the queue.


The Government originally said it wanted the healthcare regulator to “promote competition” in the NHS. Because of the public outcry, the Government changed its wording slightly. It now says it wants to “prevent anti-competitive behaviour”. That’s not a big difference! Hospitals would be fined for any collaboration which the regulator thinks is “anti-competitive”. The idea is to make it easier for the private sector to muscle in on NHS contracts.

The Government doesn’t want the NHS to be the “preferred provider” of healthcare any more. Instead, “any qualified provider” will be free to operate under the NHS brand. The Government is planning to push the “any qualified provider” initiative from April 2012. It’s essentially another way of opening up the NHS to more private competition. In case the competition gets too fierce, the Government is having to put in place measures to deal with hospitals that become insolvent.

The Tories and Lib Dems are running down the health service. The NHS faces a four-year budget freeze and £20bn of “efficiency savings”. This is despite the Government having pledged to increase NHS spending in real terms every year. Yet Tory Health Minister Andrew Lansley is willing to waste upwards of £3bn on implementing his “reforms”.

NHS staff are bearing the brunt. Pay for many NHS workers has been frozen. There is growing job insecurity as well as downward pressure on terms and conditions. Downbanding is a big problem. Because of the cuts and reorganisations, the ability of staff to deliver patient care is deteriorating. More treatments are being rationed and waiting times are up. And if the Government’s plans for the NHS go through, there will be plenty more trouble ahead.

Public sector workers strike

When hundreds of thousands of public sector workers go on strike, the government should take note. These are not the ‘militants’, the ‘extremists’ or the ‘bully boys’ that feature in the fantasies of the Tory media.

These are hard-working, mostly low paid, men and women who keep our vital public services going despite inadequate resources and ever worsening conditions. When these people, who are at the heart of our communities, feel they have no other choice but to walk out, we should all realise that there is a serious grievance that must be addressed.

What on earth does Labour leader Ed Miliband mean when he opposes the strikes by saying, “we are on the side of parents and children"? As if the hundreds of thousands of strikers are not themselves parents or users of the very same services that they work so hard to provide!

Public sector pensions are under attack from a government that values the work of the millionaire banker more than they value the work of a classroom teacher. Home care workers who do the most difficult jobs looking after vulnerable elderly and disabled people face massive cuts in their wages, and changes to their working conditions, that would make it impossible for many of them to survive.

First and foremost, this is an issue of justice. Low-paid public sector workers are not responsible for the economic crisis we are in. Yet they are the ones who will struggle to pay their mortgage, and put food on the table, while Tory bankers only struggle to think how to spend their obscene bonuses.

Yes, people will be inconvenienced by strikes. That is because the services these workers provide are so important to our society. But on this issue we really should be “all in it together”. Those men and women who take strike action this week are fighting for us all