Show how good migrants are for Britain with a one-day migrant strike

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Show how good migrants are for Britain with a one-day migrant strike

King's Cross railway station, London. (CGP Grey under a Creative Commons Licence)

What would make people understand how much migrants help our society? asks Paul Donovan.

Migrants are getting tired of helping British society. But at the same time, people say they are bad just for being in the country.

I talked recently to a migrant worker. She has been in this country for 10 years and she’s getting angry.

The 32-year-old Polish woman, Edith (not her real name), first worked in care homes on the south coast of England. She worked long hours and did other cleaning jobs because she needed more money. Edith went to English reading and writing classes in her free time. She paid taxes but did not get much in return.

She then started to work as a cleaner at a hotel. She worked hard so she soon became a supervisor. Now she is also studying accountancy at college in her spare time. She wants to be an accountant.

‘We are here, we pay taxes. I do not understand why people always say bad things about migrants,’ said Edith. She thinks migrants should strike: ‘Then people would know exactly what we do.’

She is right. Migrants have always been very important in British society. About 26% of doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) come from other countries. The NHS often brings nurses from other countries, in and outside the European Union.

Britain’s schools and colleges have many teachers from across the world. The transport system has employed many migrants since the 1950s, when London Transport went to the West Indies to get workers. The care sector would be impossible without the many migrant workers. And in the catering industry: in many parts of the country, most workers are migrants.

People say bad things about migrants. But at the same time these people get Polish workers to do building work in their house (the construction industry employs many migrants).

Migration is good for the economy. The government’s Office for Budget Responsibility shows that 250,000 new migrants per year increases the annual GDP by 0.5%. This growth means more jobs, more money from tax, more money for schools and hospitals and less debt.

In 2009, University College London studied the effect of recent eastern European migrants. They paid 37% more in taxes than the cost of the public services they used.

Migrant numbers go up and down, usually relating to how good the economy is. This is because they mostly come to work – not, as many people think, to get benefits.

The population in Britain is getting older, and people are living longer. People are not having enough children to replace the population. Now there are 3 people of working age for every 1 person over 65. By 2060 this will be 1 person of working age for every 1 person over 65.

Academic David Blake says that if we want to continue with the state pension, we need 500,000 immigrant workers coming to Britain each year. These migrants are necessary to make enough money to look after the ageing population we have now.

There are many positive things about migration. But politicians always talk about the need to cut immigration and promise to cut numbers. They usually don’t talk about the value and need for migration.

If we have a migrant 1-day strike, this would show how much migrants help the country. If all the migrants stopped working for one day, many of the services that people need would stop. A migrant strike would be a very good way to make people understand this.

There are many arguments for migration: eg. the economic benefits, and the rich diversity that different races bring to our country. But we need to manage migration to this country better.

We need minimum standards of pay and conditions so migrants don’t get less money than British workers. We also need good public services, eg. house-building, from the taxes that migrants pay. Labour MP Dennis Skinner says how after the Second World War, many migrants moved to Britain with no problems from countries like Poland and the Ukraine. There were strong trade unions then, and new workers became members, so they were not used as cheap labour.

‘It is very important for community relations to make sure everybody earns enough money,’ said Skinner. ‘If trade unions were stronger, people from different countries would get on better.’

So there are many ways that we can manage migration better. This ageing country needs migrants to keep it going. Migrants also add to the diversity and culture of the country. Maybe people need to see all these positives – a migrant strike would show them.

Paul Donovan is a journalist in London. More information: