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3-D: Are you ready to do them?

18 December 2010
Published in Politics
by Nath Gbikpi

‘3 millions de chômeurs ce sont 3 millions d’immigrés de trop!’ (‘3 millions of unemployed are 3 millions of immigrants too many!’), look as was proclaiming a poster of the French party Front National. In the British National Party (BNP)’s website, we can read that ‘The current open-door policy and unrestricted, uncontrolled immigration is leading to [...] higher unemployment [...]’. ‘Ridurre i flussi [di ingresso degli stranieri] quindi, permette di contrarre il numero di disoccupati in generale. È una cosa talmente logica, che chi non la capisce è solo perché non la vuole capire.’ (‘To reduce the flux [of foreigners’ entry] then, allows narrowing the number of unemployed in general. It is something so logical, that those who do not understand it are only those who do not want to understand it.’) said Massimo Garavaglia, senator of the Lega Nord in Italy (2009). It seems that more and more people are starting to think ‘logically’… In fact, these words are no more solely in the mouths of some far-right nationalist political parties. They are becoming more and more a common belief.

Unable to face the economic crisis that is affecting most of their population, governors need to find an external enemy to blame, to divert attention from their own failures. This is one of the oldest and most efficient tactics in politics. That is how the migrant, the stranger, becomes the natural enemy on which people are legitimized to reverse their rage. Funnily enough, in Europe the countries with the largest proportions of immigrant workers, Luxembourg and Switzerland, are the richest.

Many have argued that immigrants displace local workers. Yet, migrants are likely to do the so called “3-D”: dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs, which local people do not want to do anymore, such as clean, pick fruits or construct buildings. Not only will they do them, but they are likely to do them better. In fact, as Legrain rightly wrote in his book, ‘immigrants, your country needs them’, ‘they start at the bottom of the pile, economically and socially’. They do not enjoy our comfort; they risk their life to ensure themselves a better future. How can they not be enterprising and hard-working?

In the rich countries of today, people have greater expectations and aspirations; and politicians encourage them by trying to raise the educational level. Everybody wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a journalist, an engineer, an ambassador… and the list could go on forever. Yet, the young mother who wants to work will still need a nanny, the enterprising couple who work the whole day will still need somebody to take care of their elderly parents, the 5 stars hotel manager will still need people to clean the premises, the garbage will still need to be taken…and th list could go on forever!

This is not to say that migrants are happy to do any jobs, that they have no aspirations and are all unskilled and uneducated. We should be careful not to conclude that all Filipinos are only able to be nannies, that all Arabs are only able to be builder, and that all Black African are only able to clean tube stations. The point is that many of these people are likely to earn better doing those kinds of jobs in the West than being nurses or teachers back in their countries. What’s more, the simple fact of owning enough money to feed their families back home can make them proud of their jobs.

Finally and most importantly, people cannot only take jobs, they also make jobs: the more the people, the more the jobs needed. Workers need to be fed, transported, and housed, and all of these activities have to be done by other workers. And not only do migrants make jobs, they can make them more innovative and attractive, by putting in these jobs a bit of themselves. How many people complained about the introduction of Japanese sushi and Chinese spring rolls? As a final note, when all of these workers spend their wages, they increase the demand for goods and services; when they pay their taxes, they increase the revenue of the state. In sum, they boost the whole economy.

Can migrants still be accused of the increasing unemployment?

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