Posts Tagged 'Immigration'

Looking West: Britain’s Revised Immigration Policy

London in movement by fabbriciuse

London in movement by fabbriciuse

SEOUL — IT’S TOUGH BEING UNWANTED, especially when you’ve fallen out of favor with a major Western power. Britain’s migration advisory committee published a list Tuesday (local time) reducing the number of skilled jobs open to non-EU migrants to 700,000 from 1 million. Effective November, the fields of medicine, secondary education and social work will be closed to those from outside the European bloc, along with 300,000 other jobs. Whether this is a sign of growing economic protectionism or a simple case of discrimination (or both) depends on your perspective. But it seems clear that in an increasingly borderless world, some parties are still trying to hold the line.

They have, of course, left some channels of immigration open — notably to sheep shearers and ballet dancers (Guardian via FP Passport):

It is thought the changes will cut the level of skilled migration to Britain from outside Europe by between 30,000 and 70,000 people a year.

The main list of shortage areas identified by the group of labour market economists is headed by construction managers involved in multimillion-pound projects, civil and chemical engineers, medical consultants, maths and science teachers, and ships officers to staff a newly growing merchant navy.

It also includes unexpected occupations such as skilled ballet dancers and sheep shearers. The experts heard evidence from the Royal Ballet that very few British applicants had the required level of artistic excellence or aesthetics.

The other exception will enable a group of 500 Australian and New Zealand shearers who travel the world working on up to 400 sheep a day to continue to operate in Britain, where they shear 20% of the UK flock.

The MAC acknowledged that one way to address these shortage areas, aside from turning to “low-paid immigrant labour,” is to increase pay rates for those positions. Citing budgetary reasons, they said such a solution is off the table for now. Another answer might be to both raise wages and allow people from outside the EU to compete — leveling the playing field, allowing immigrants to improve their lot and potentially giving the economy a boost. That idea didn’t seem to occur to the committee.

Having just moved to a nation where the word “foreigner” is used in wide brush strokes and where finding work as an outsider in anything besides teaching English is often prohibitively difficult, I can perhaps say based on anecdotal evidence that such closed economic policies are not only the result of buried nativist tendencies (Korea for Koreans, Britain for the Brits) but have the effect of perpetuating such notions. A blunt example is Japan’s refusal to grant suffrage to the over 600,000 ethnic Koreans living in the island nation, many of whom are second or third generation — a policy that pokes at the still-gaping wound of colonial history.

If migrants, expats and other such folk are regulated out of having a full role in their adopted society, they are also shut out in more emotional ways. Tension bubbles, leaving rifts in a culture that could otherwise be rich in mingling hues. It is a backwards step in a globalising world, and one that Britain should consider carefully.

A Message from Korea Immigration Services (Updated)

Following up an earlier post on multiculturalism in Korea, the Commissioner of Korea Immigration Services wrote an editorial for The Korea Times the other day saying that Korea is ‘Eager to Embrace Foreigners’ (via The Marmot).

To be quite honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about the article – parts of it seem warm and astute, while certain paragraphs seem blunt and abrasive…particularly these:

Willing to work for less than their Korean counterparts, immigrant workers will help lower labor cost, thereby restoring the price competitiveness of Korean firms’ products. Immigration can thus lead to a win-win outcome for Koreans and foreigners […]

Of course, Korea cannot permit complete freedom of movement into the country right away. There will be issues to be addressed, as more and more foreigners enter Korea. Some of them are already surfacing. Some foreign brides married to Korean farmers have difficulty adjusting to a new life in an unfamiliar country, in some cases leading to dysfunctional families.

Many young men who come to teach English at private institutions have questionable qualifications and background. Low-income immigrant workers are beginning to congregate in cheap neighborhoods, raising the prospect of ghettoes. [read full]

While some of what commissioner Choo Kyu Ho writes sounds at first over-simplified and even derogatory, upon second thought his arguments are well founded in recent events; foreign brides do face significant challenges, and many English-speaking foreigners (I wouldn’t relegate it to “men”) are significantly under-qualified to teach.

I certainly wouldn’t boast about immigrants being sources of cheap labor; this leads to the nasty stereotype that they aren’t capable of much else. However, comparing the situation to that of the U.S., it is undeniable that many immigrants (especially from Mexico) do the work that Americans themselves refuse to do – for better or worse.

(UPDATE: After a re-read and a second thought, the commissioner’s statements sound all too much like he’s giving the green light for exploitation of immigrants in the name of economic gain. These practices will only plant the seeds for disparity in future generations, creating cycles of poverty and increasing tension along socioeconomic and racial lines.)

Perhaps it’s just a bit of a shock to see all of this in print. Thoughts?

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