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The oddest remark of the year?

I realise it is only April, so there is ample time for someone else to win the much vaunted Samizdata prize of ‘oddest remark of the year’, but this has to be a real contender:

However, Prof Rowthorn said the most likely victims were British-born school-leavers who had never had a job, having failed to find the kind of casual work they might have walked into a few years ago. The claim will fuel a political row over the prospects for a generation referred to as “Neets” (not in education, employment or training).

The professor said: “We are looking at the most vulnerable, least skilled and in some ways least motivated members of the local workforce. The problem that eastern European migrants pose is that they are good workers.”

So the fact good workers are arriving in the UK is a ‘problem’ and that employers have them to hire rather than having to try and coax an honest day’s work out of the least unmotivated native born lumpen is… a bad thing for people in Britain overall? Hmmm.

Also as the total number of job has been rising steadily for quite some time, it is hard to hide the fact the children of the British ‘welfare’ state are simply acting as the state has conditioned them to act. Of course the irony is that the people in some part replacing them are high initiative individuals arriving from former communist countries in search of better opportunities. And such people filling jobs grows the economy, so again the advantages overall take wilful blindness not to see.

Locals who cannot compete with Eastern European need to ask themselves why that is. My guess is that they are not really trying to compete very hard because after all, they can always just sign on for the dole. I find it hard to be sympathetic when a person’s poverty is simply a function of a lack of motivation.

Of course one is not suppose to say things like that. My bad.

21 comments to The oddest remark of the year?

  • Laird

    It’s a pity that no one teaches the old fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper”(Link) anymore. (Or, if they do teach it, they use a “modern” version where the ants take pity on the grasshopper and feed him. In the original, the grasshopper dies.)

    Some people should starve.

  • Or, if they do teach it, they use a “modern” version where the ants take pity on the grasshopper and feed him.

    Please tell me that you made this up?

  • Laird

    Unfortunately, no. (Link)

  • Brian

    Quite likely it is so. Of course, the Eastern European workers have another disadvantage in the minds of the bien pensant, namely their skin colour. They are getting jobs and they are not disadvantaged. Clearly this must be stopped.

  • mishu

    Aren’t “conservatives” in the UK urging to build a fence?

  • RAB

    Perhaps we should offer our “Unemployed”
    a ticket to Poland.
    There, they will obviously be offered better educational , motivational and asperational skills than they have obviously managed to garner here.

  • Laird: I was afraid so. Sigh.

  • Oli

    There is actually a trend emerging with the latest Polish workers off the bus in that they are not as hard working as those who arrived a few years ago.
    The main reason being that the first wave were highly over qualified for the work they were doing. they were all degree holders (that would be in a proper subject – no degrees in dog walking or media studies in Poland!)

    The current crop are the ones who were already working in factories and had no plans to, or didn’t have the ability to get better work in Poland. They came over due to the gold pavements in the UK. They are not as hardworking, but they are still motivated by 3 times their current wages for no more work.

    This current crop of no hoper UK youth is what happens when you put kids into a non competitive environment and call it school!
    It doesn’t help that the cult of celebrity is being banded around as being a serious career option for the lazy but loud – however, the greatest crime against these kids is they were never taught about self responsibility

    If they were the Poles would have had some competition for the new jobs over the past few years.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I have been reading this stuff about how immigrants are “taking” “our” jobs and not adding to the UK’s economy. In the short run, immigrants may reduce wages for low-skilled people by increasing the labour supply but in the medium term, as they progress up the work ladder and acquire new skills – “human capital” if you will – they add new capital to the economy.

    Even newspapers like The Sunday Telegraph are repeating this line. By this logic, we should reduce the working population of the UK by half; that way, we’d double GDP per head.

  • Pa Annoyed

    It’s an odd comment all right. But it’s only version of what’s going on. I don’t know which version of events is right, but it’s worth being aware of the other point of view.

    The other explanation for this is that following the introduction of minimum wages, health and safety, working hours limits, and other barriers-to-trade of the nanny state, an opportunity has opened up for organised crime to bypass these restrictions and offer up labour on the old terms. The gangmasters – a modern name for slavers – import foreign workers and then keep them living in rock-bottom conditions for less than minimum pay, often keeping them quiet through intimidation, taking their passports, and threatening them with being deported if they go to the authorities. They use foreigners because they are easier to control. British kids would soon go to the police, so they’re not employed. In that sense, I suppose you could say foreigners are “better workers”, but it’s not a point of view I would necessarily agree with.

    Besides the borderline-criminal gangmasters, who mainly deal in unskilled labour, there is also a legitimate boom in more skilled trades – bus drivers, builders, plumbers, etc. They work hard for the minimum wage, because it’s four times what they’d earn back home, where unemployment is 20%. They can save up a small pile of cash and then go home, where it will be transformed into great wealth by the magic of post-Communist economic failure. For a young Briton hoping to raise a family and then retire, the minimum wage is an insufficient pittance that is not worth the long hours of labour demanded for it. It’s enough to live on day to day, plus a bit, but you can’t build a future.

    So why work 45 hours a week for forty years for barely enough to live on and then die in geriatric poverty – when you can live the same for no work at all on benefits? They’d have to be daft to do anything else. But they’re still not happy about it.

    Overall, the good it does the Poles outweighs the bad it does the Brits, but there’s no doubt that it’s bad news for the poor of Britain. Thinking themselves near the top of the queue for emergence from poverty, they suddenly find themselves pushed to the back of the line again. They must wait for all of socialist Europe to catch up now before they have any market power again.

    If we consider the collective good of Britain, or the poor of the world as a whole, then this is both generates more wealth and helps more of the poor more quickly, but you can certainly understand how many Britons might be upset by the whole affair.

    The reason it’s considered a problem by our politicians, though, is that only the poor of Britain have a vote. Which is why it is so vital that we are ruled from the EU as quickly as possible, so the Eastern Europeans working here get their fair say in our laws. It’s only fair, right?

    (That last bit was irony, by the way. In case it wasn’t obvious.)

  • The problem is not the East Europeans, but the Neets and they will not bother to ask themselves the question while they can grow up, pair off, stay in and sprog out on welfare.

  • RAB

    Dr Tim L would be proud of you
    TimC 😉

  • Pa Annoyed


    The problem is not the Neets, who know very well why they cannot compete with East Europeans. It is with the failed economies of those other nations for who the poor of all nations wind up paying. And for us it is the fault of the bottomless pit of the welfare state system, as we try to fill that global-sized hole not of our own making. Neither Neets nor East European workers are to blame.

  • Pa,

    I said problem, not blame, and I thought it was clear that I point my finger of blame at the Welfare State.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Ah, Sorry TimC. I read the line “The problem is not the East Europeans, but the Neets” and thought you were saying the Neets were “the problem”. My bad.

    I still think the legacy of Communism in Eastern Europe is “the problem”, but I wouldn’t want to start an argument over it. 🙂

  • Condor

    I find it hard to be sympathetic when a person’s poverty is simply a function of a lack of motivation“. Nuff’ Said.

  • pibill

    Double Ditto the States!

  • nick g.

    Saw a British comedy routine, set in London, where two ‘Polish’ workers lamented the fact that they had to pretend to be Poles to get jobs! And I remember Ben Elton commenting, “They’re not taking our jobs, they’re doing our jobs!”, because a lot of Britons were too lazy to do them, but that doesn’t stop them complaining!

    Alisa- I remember a Muppet Show sketch, where the Ants froze to death in an unseasonably cold winter, and the grasshopper drove to Florida!

  • Nick, obviously that happened before Global Warming, for which the ants are clearly responsible.

  • Andy

    The problem is that thanks to the appalling UK education system many young people are leaving school,functionally illiterate and without even a basic grasp of maths,since the immigrants will work for much lower wages than the natives this makes them more attractive to employers.

  • el windy

    Having worked with young people both in southern Italy and North London I feel the blame lies with us adults – parents, teachers , local politicians etc…we have a vested interest in keeping our young people in this state of passive inactivity because (a) they are more talented than us (b) they are naturally more attractive (c) they take a very short time to learn things if you let them and (d) we arre scared that they might slip from our control. The “we” I’m referring to is the generation who were young in the 60s and 70s and were very happy to grow our hair long and fight the outdated mentality of our parents and we have, ever since, occupied all the spaces which we, as young people, felt it our right to occupy. We cannot reconcile ourselves to the fact that “we” are now the “outdated mentality”. Its called “life”! Think I’m exaggerating? What is the real significance of Mick Jagger and pals still giving sell-out concerts? How many rebels of May 68 have helped or are helping young people to occupy the spaces they have slefishly occupied since the 70’s?