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The Politics of Immigration in Hard Times

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The Politics of Immigration in Hard Times Don Flynn Outline of argument The character that immigration took in the noughties has its origins in the reconstruction of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Politics of Immigration in Hard Times


1
The Politics of Immigration in Hard Times Don
Flynn
2
Outline of argument
  • The character that immigration took in the
    noughties has its origins in the reconstruction
    of the UK economy which took place in the 1980s
  • The key features of this were the de-regulation
    of labour markets and the use of social welfare
    systems to defuse protest and manage the
    transition to the new economy.
  • It took a decade and a half for the implications
    of these changes to feed into immigration but the
    lineagew is there to be traced.

3
Thatchers reforms create the need for a new type
of working class
  • Post-war capitalism was built on a model which
    assumed a strong partnership between the state
    and capital.
  • Capital prepared to commit to long-term
    investment in activities that supported the
    employment of a skilled working class, but
    required the state provide it with this class,
    appropriately educated and socialised to meet the
    needs of Fordist production.
  • Features of this model jobs for life,
    regulation and a role for unions, the male family
    wage.

4
Problems with this model
  • Required regulation to provide stable conditions
    that would encourage long-term investment.
  • Also, high rates of taxation to support state
    services
  • A state bureaucracy to oversee economic planning
  • Consequently a marginal role for the commercial
    middle classes who also carried what they thought
    were unacceptably high levels of taxation

5
Implications for immigration policy
  • Immigration associated with bottlenecks in
    manufacturing and the public sector.
  • Periods of downturn and reduced demand for labour
    could be rapidly translated into more restrictive
    immigration policies.
  • This was particularly the case after 1973 when
    the rationalisation of industry forced by the
    OPEC oil crisis brought back large-scale
    unemployment.
  • This reduced labour demand encouraged the view
    that the immigration legislation of this period
    was working.

6
Thatchers settlement
  • Deregulation of labour markets
  • Increased mobility of capital (floating exchange
    rates, the City Big Bang, etc)
  • Sharp decline in industrial sectors that has
    provided a base for trade union power.
  • The liberation of the middle classes through
    lower taxation and increased opportunties to
    leverage value from asset inflation.
  • Squeeze on the public sector

7
Outcomes
  • Much smaller industrial base
  • Decline in skilled jobs offering life-long
    employment prospects
  • Expansion of jobs in service sector
  • Higher proportion of lower paid jobs
  • Cushioning the danger of social tension through
    the large-scale use of social welfare allowing
    large numbers of middle-aged males to be weased
    out the labour market
  • An economic recovery driven by more intensive
    market competition.

8
Implications for immigration
  • No immediate expansion of demand for immigrations
    emerging from these market driven reforms.
  • But external effects Thatcherism allied with US
    power to become the neo-liberalism that filled
    the vacuum in the post-Cold War period began to
    produce a more volatile situation internationally
    bringing larger numbers of workers into migration
    systems.
  • This intially seen as increased refugee flows,
    but latterly became economic migration.

9
1990s onwards the new economy and migration
demand
  • By mid-1990s capitalism was emerging as a
    competitive system in which firms gained
    advantage by managing supply chains off-shoring
    but also just-in-time production domestically.
  • Ultra-flexible labour force had been summonsed
    but in conditions of broadly full-employment as a
    result of a long boom and labour supply
    restricted by social welfare provisions that
    provided for subsistence.
  • Demand for labour therefore flowed over into a
    new phase of immigration.

10
Implications for politics
  • New Labour reconfigured the objective of
    immigration management away from reduction to an
    irreducible minimum to policies which supported
    growth.
  • Required a reform of work permit system geared
    towards skilled migration, but also measures
    aimed at easing bottlenecks at low skilled ends.
  • This project configured in managerialist terms
    low level of confidence that ordinary citizens
    would welcome immigration.

11
Ambiguous messages growth of mistrust
  • Negative perceptions of refugees
  • Surveillance of economic migrants ID cards, etc
  • Undermining of rights of EU migrants residence
    test, etc
  • Claim for policy rooted in a strong evidence base
    fundamentally challenged by experience of 2004
    accession
  • Considerable loss of lustre as capable managers
    but the full force of a backlash still some years
    away.

12
2008 and collapse of New Labour competence
  • Space now exists for the backlash to more fully
    develop
  • Claims of competition between natives and
    migrants becomes more plausible.
  • Evidence for this is claimed in the form of wage
    pressure, youth unemployment, and pressure on
    public services.
  • Centre right furnished with arguments which allow
    it to chip away working class support for Labour

13
Coalition produces new immigration messages
  • Broken borders
  • Uncontrolled EU migration
  • Loss of capacity to select good migrants and
    deport the bad
  • Pressures from population growth.
  • Need to reduce net migration.

14
Wider policy agendas
  • Immigration an obstacle to completing the drive
    to reform social welfare provision and make it a
    more effective instrument for disciplining the
    working class through conditionality, etc
  • But stronger restrictions also threaten to break
    up old alliances with business community and also
    the drive to put higher education on a business
    footing.
  • Demographic issues how does the Tory party
    avoid alienating the rising ethnic minority
    middle classes?

15
Medium and longer-term prospects
  • Demand for labour migration unlikely to diminish
    now too strongly written into the business
    plans of important stakeholders
  • Mainstream parties also unable to develop a
    credible narrative which supports their claim
    that migration can be managed through stronger
    policing and more selectivity
  • Outcome is likely to be the consolidation of
    immigration as a part of the platform of stronger
    right wing current in mainstream politics
  • But still no practical answers to how migration
    can be better managed/

16
Thanks
  • Don Flynn
  • Migrants Rights Network
  • www.migrantsrights.org.uk
  • d.flynn_at_migrantsrights.org.uk
  • donflynnmrn
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