I was reading in The Times last week about how Mariana Campeanu, Romania’s Labour Minister, had said that people in the UK should be grateful for foreign labour as they fill jobs that British people are too lazy to do. Whilst I can imagine the blood pressure of some people reaching boiling point, I have to say that I have some sympathy with this argument.
Throughout history, some people in the UK (this is of course not just a “UK thing”) have always looked to blame someone else for any problems, be that with employment, healthcare, housing, over-crowded schools, or even the quality of the National Football Team! Of course “Johnny Foreigner” is a easy target, a good excuse to say “it’s not our fault, it all their fault”. This argument is of course not only flawed, but it is mostly bollocks. To suggest that British people would be doing all the jobs in agriculture and the hospitality sectors if there were no immigrants is of course total nonsense. Also immigrants play a vital role in our nursing and social care systems.
When it comes to employment, before the Romanians and Bulgarians threatened to “flood” the UK, it was of course the Poles who were the root of all evil, taking our jobs, filling up our schools and hospitals. I know several Polish people and in my experience I can say that generally they are harder working, more conscientious, have a much better work ethic, and they are happy to do all this for less money. Generally speaking they are massively over-qualified for the work they do (they have degrees and speak several languages), yet they still do tasks many British people consider to be menial with dignity and pride. As for the old chestnut that they are putting a strain on the welfare system, taking our money and sending it home to their families, this is simply not true. Studies have proven that Polish people actually pay more into our welfare system than they take out. People seem to forget that the majority of Polish people come to the UK to work, not to sponge of the system. So they actually pay more into the system.
The vast majority of British people are sensible, hard working people who are very tolerant of other people. There is a small minority though (as there are in every country) who would rather moan and blame everyone else for their misfortune, when the truth is that they should take more responsibility for their circumstances, create their own Universe. Our welfare state has positively encouraged people in the UK to have a career on benefits, and that (along with binge drinking) is now inbred in our culture, something that the present Government is finally taking measures to correct. With a poor work ethic, in a family where for generations the occupation has been welfare payments, and when you can get more money from the state than you would by actually working, it’s hardly conducive for encouraging people to work for their living.
Whether we like it or not (and most people do like it), we are part of the European Union and there is free movement for EU members. It is also true that we rely on immigrant workers to do work that traditionally UK people are not willing to do. It is also true that immigrant workers bring new cultures to the UK further increasing the already diversified social situation which is a good thing in my opinion.
So rather than wanting to deride immigrants and the words of Mariana Campeanu, I think we should listen to her opinion because much of what she says has an uncomfortable truth for some people in the UK. Life is about balance. We need to continue to reform the welfare state to make sure that everyone who truly needs help gets it, and we need to work harder to give everyone the opportunity to work for their living. We also need to make sure that the UK is not a soft touch for less scrupulous people who think they can come here and not work hard. But most of all, from the Government to the man in the street, we need to stop making excuses and start taking more action.