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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 97 15:50:09 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: GL: Exposing the myth that migrants take `our' jobs
Organization: PACH
Article: 22591

Exposing the myth that migrants take our jobs

By Chris Slee, Green Left Weekly,
23 November 1997

The idea that immigration contributes to unemployment is very widespread.

Pauline Hanson blames migrants for unemployment (along with crime, drugs, disease and just about every other problem you can think of). She has called for the cessation of immigration "at least in the short term".

John Howard also blames migrants for unemployment. He has cut the rate of immigration, supposedly to reduce unemployment.

The previous Labor government had already reduced immigration, supposedly to protect jobs.

Numerous media commentators also propagate the view that immigration causes unemployment.

This view is readily accepted by many ordinary people because it seems like "common sense". Superficially, it seems obvious that if there are not enough jobs for people already living here, bringing in more people must worsen the situation.

This view is false, because it wrongly assumes that the number of jobs is fixed.

It is quite possible for more jobs to be created -- both for the existing population and for new arrivals. Conversely, governments can and do carry out policies that abolish jobs and create unemployment.

For example, Howard claims to be very concerned about unemployment. However, his "concern" is hypocritical. If he is so worried about unemployment, why has he been destroying jobs in the public sector? Why have thousands of government employees been made redundant?

I work in the Tax Office. There have been a lot of redundancies, both under the former Labor government and under the Coalition.

Up till now redundancies have mainly been voluntary (at least in theory). However, management is now moving towards compulsory redundancies.

These sackings violate the Liberals' pre-election promise of no compulsory redundancies.

Politicians and media commentators blame migrants for unemployment to divert attention from the real causes of unemployment -- the capitalist economic system and the policies of capitalist governments.

The capitalist system is based on the pursuit of profit, not on meeting human needs. Companies are continually trying to boost profits by cutting the work force -- hence the ongoing wave of downsizing and retrenchments.

Furthermore, the capitalist system is unplanned and irrational, resulting in periodic economic crises.

The people who make the decisions to sack workers are the owners of big business and the politicians who serve their interests. Migrants (along with Aborigines and other minority groups) are useful scapegoats to divert attention away from the real culprits -- themselves.

For politicians in power (such as Howard), scapegoating is especially convenient to deflect attention from their own job-cutting policies.

While many defenders of the capitalist system claim that immigration causes unemployment, some disagree.

Economists point out that migrants need houses, transport, education and other goods and services, and therefore create work for building workers, public transport workers, teachers and others. Some economists even argue that immigration reduces unemployment.

Believers in economic "rationalism" often claim that the unfettered free market will create jobs for all who want them. They say it just hasn't been "freed up" enough yet, despite all the deregulation and privatisation of recent years.

But such assurances are unconvincing. The reality is that the "free market" means pay cuts, worse conditions, job losses and general economic insecurity.

To fight racism, we must fight unemployment. We must demand that governments stop sacking workers and start creating more jobs. There is useful work to be done. We need more teachers, health workers, public transport workers and other public sector workers.

Public sector unions need to go on the offensive and argue the case for creating more public sector jobs.

We also need a shorter working week with no loss of pay to share the work around. What is the benefit of becoming "more efficient" if it just means that fewer workers are needed and those not required are thrown onto the dole queue?

We need to revive the union campaign for shorter hours, which has been allowed to fade away since the early 1980s.

But struggling around these issues means challenging capitalism.

We need a new system that is planned and that puts people before profits. We need a government that, rather than cutting public sector jobs, creates more jobs in socially useful areas. Such a government would be able to create jobs for all who want them, both Australian-born and migrant workers.