Rumy Hasan's blog posts tagged with 'immigration'

Immigration and The British Dream - review of Goodhart



On Open Democracy

This post is also published on the Open Democracy website

Does solidarity break down with multiculturalism? And if so, how can we respond? Rumy Hasan reviews The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration by David Goodhart.

Children playing
How can we build solidarity in multicultural Britain?/wikimedia

The issue of immigration has become of supreme importance throughout the world. There appears to be a universal desire on the parts of governments, on the one hand, to curb levels of legal immigration whilst, on the other, to show zero tolerance for illegal (‘undocumented’) immigration. The recent election victory of Tony Abbot in Australia was in good measure due to his Liberal Party’s very hard stance on controlling the borders, specifically to keep out boatloads of asylum seekers. 

Similarly, in the US, Republicans have raised the issue of millions of illegal Latino (mainly Mexican) migrants to the highest priority and, by so doing, cemented their popularity in the southern states. In crisis-ridden Greece, the rapid influx of large numbers of illegal migrants has been put down as a core reason for the rise of the violent, neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn Party. Countries as disparate as Malaysia and Tanzania have been forcibly removing illegal immigrants.

In Britain too, immigration has become a defining issue for all political parties: in a 2007 Ipsos-MORI poll, for example, 64% said that immigration should be much tougher and a further 12% said it should be stopped altogether, while 68% agreed that there were already too many immigrants in Britain. A recent opinion poll showed that 64 per cent of Britons said immigration was more of a “problem” than an opportunity for the country and this is reflected in the rise of the anti-immigration, anti-EU, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). David Goodhart’s new book provides a robust analysis of post-war immigration to Britain to seek out the factors which have contributed to this deep unease. He provides his key theses at the outset: 

“[P]ublic opinion is broadly right about the immigration story. Britain has had too much of it, too quickly, especially in recent years, and much of it, especially for the least well off, has not produced self-evident economic benefit. What is clearer still is that it has not been well managed. Britain has never had a culture of integrating newcomers, though most have done it for themselves: in the early post-war decades this laissez-faire approach was overlaid first with racial prejudice and then later by a liberalism that was reluctant to intervene in individual choices. Moreover multiculturalism, particularly in the more separatist form that emerged in the 1980s, has allowed ‘parallel lives’ to grow up in some places and made it harder for ordinary Britons to think of some minorities, and especially Muslims, as part of the same ‘imagined community’ with common experiences and interests.”

Goodhart proceeds to take issue with two sets of theorists of immigration: those espousing economic laissez faire and those who advocate, or are silent about, cultural laissez faire. Curiously, the laissez faire approach to immigration was championed by economic advisers to the Labour government post-1997 (such as Richard Portes of the NIESR) as immigration rose by 4 million in the next 15 years (less than a quarter were from the EU) – more than the combined total since World War 2. 

Such economic ‘immigrationists’ focus has been on the purported benefits: labour is a factor of production that must be permitted to move freely to wherever there is demand for it, thereby improving global efficiencies and resource allocation. It naturally follows that immigration will help raise economic growth and, conversely, immigration controls can be a barrier to growth. Goodhart provides evidence to show that the overall impact of recent mass immigration to Britain is, in fact, neutral. Migrants certainly gain – the history of migration from developing to developed countries shows that very few return, so that despite all the problems of adjustment, their lives have improved for the better. And naturally, employers who employ migrants also gain (and public services in particular have benefited enormously from migrant workers). 

Crucially, however, for the low skilled and unskilled workers, the impact of rapid large scale immigration has been negative from the increased competition in the labour market and attendant downward pressure on wages, so much so that some employers have preferred to recruit foreign workers. This has contributed not only to a persistently high rate of unemployment, but also to increased competition for public services. So it is not too surprising to find widespread hostility to immigration from this section of the working class.

But what has been little examined – and stressed by Goodhart – is the impact of emigration on poorer countries: the argument has invariably been confined to the gains from remittances. There has, however, been little analysis of the damaging effect from the loss of young, hardworking, often skilled workers. The ‘brain drain’ often leads to social pain back home. Thus, for example, emigrating nurses and doctors – the benefits of whose education and training have been lost to their home counties and passed over free of charge to richer countries – inevitably weaken the health service of their home countries, which is not compensated by remittances. This issue was famously raised by Nelson Mandela in his visit to the UK in 1997 when he asked the British government to halt recruitment of nurses from AIDS-afflicted South Africa.  All credit to Goodhart for highlighting this important, neglected, issue; which is also the focus of Paul Collier’s new book Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century.

The social, political and cultural impact of mass immigration has been of no concern to the economists for whom labour is simply labour. Historically, the focus of those in favour of immigration has understandably been on immigrants themselves, that is, on the difficulties and struggles of settlers – often from the former colonies – in new lands and societies far from home. 

Ipso facto, little, if any, attention has been paid to the non-economic impact of mass immigration on the established white population. It transpires that this neglect of the views of the latter – importantly, this is a democratic deficit – is a prime cause for the increasing angst around the subject which has somewhat belatedly been addressed by all the major political parties.

Goodhart gives an example of the London suburb of Merton which has, in recent years, become ‘super diverse’, that is, attracted an array of sizeable migrant communities from around the world, including that of Ahmadi Muslims. The latter group, after a long battle over planning permission, has built a giant mosque (though the opposition was nowhere near as hostile to that of the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ in New York in 2010); in similar vein, a large traditional pub has been replaced by a Sunni Islamic centre. 

Goodhart points out that ‘the Ahmadis are model immigrants in many ways. They preach an ecumenical form of Islam and are grateful to be given refuge in this country. But to many locals that’s not the point. As one man described as White Heritage Elder Male in the jargon of race relations said: “We’ve lost this place to other cultures ... it’s not English anymore”’. Such sentiments – or indeed the concerns of the long-established majority white population in general – have certainly not been given an airing especially by those of a soi disant liberal/progressive bent.

The reason why little interest has been taken of the social and cultural impact of minorities is because of Britain, by default, evolving into a ‘multicultural society’. Goodhart deems the progressive anti-racist stance of those supporting immigrants in the 1970s as constituting ‘liberal multiculturalism’. This is mistaken as the struggles by the first generation of migrants were for equality in all aspects of society (just as in America, the clarion call of the civil rights movement was for equality and against racism). 

In fact, what multiculturalism is really about – its apotheosis has been in Canada, enshrined by its 1988 Multiculturalism Act – and which, as Goodhart proceeds to elaborate upon, is cultural and religious laissez faire underpinned by cultural relativism, whereby immigrants are allowed to lead lives pretty much akin to those obtaining in their places of origin. That being so, some groups have demanded separate rights, resources, institutions, and exemptions to the law. Moreover, there appears to have been an increase in ‘choice’ on the part of some minorities to live in separate enclaves (de facto ghettos) – hence the phenomenon of ‘parallel lives’.

Not just Merton but London itself has become ‘super diverse’ as the established white population has fallen from 60% in 2001 to just 45% in 2011 (a stark statistic that has doubtless made the political establishment sit up and take note). So London is now truly a ‘global’ city with people from all corners of the globe residing in it and its multi-ethnic nature as a result of immigration was warmly highlighted in Danny Boyle’s widely acclaimed opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

The ceremony was indeed marvellous, not least in its positive portrayal of ethnic minorities. That said, its minority focus was almost entirely on the Caribbean component; it could, for example, have been more truthful by making specific reference to the input of Asians in the section on the glittering tribute to the NHS. Indeed, British Asians (the largest ethnic minority) were pretty much absent from not only the opening and closing ceremonies (being no more than extras in the various sets) but also from the sporting contests – pretty much the entire Team GB compromised of whites, blacks, and those of a black-white parentage – hardly a resounding success of multicultural, multi-ethnic Britain.

Goodhart suggests that London’s ‘success’ as a multi-ethnic city needs to be tempered by the fact that 600,000 white Londoners left the city between 2001 and 2011 – the phenomenon of ‘white flight – but does not delve deeply into the reasons for this. Part of the difficulty is lack of hard data which requires rigorous research. But, one can legitimately surmise, the often rapid changes in many neighbourhoods caused by mass immigration is an important, perhaps decisive, factor. Such a reason might seem inexplicable or even deemed to be racist by those afflicted by what can be termed ‘white liberal post-colonial guilt’ – whereby any criticism of the modus vivendi of ethnic minorities is a taboo, which is in itself racist thinking. But this simply fails to grasp the reality. 

In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that broad swathes of the white population are not, putting it somewhat euphemistically, enamoured by an array of peculiar and undesirable cultural and religious characteristics – with their stress on ‘difference’ – of some migrants that have transformed their towns and cities; and so have voted with their feet. Moreover, this has little to do with ‘race’ or ethnicity given that sections of ethnic minorities who wish to integrate and live in a neighbourhood reflecting society at large also vote with their feet.

Goodhart demolishes the oft-held belief that ethnic minorities are an undifferentiated mass forever suffering from discrimination and racism. In fact, there is now a significant variation between Hindus, Sikhs, East African Asians, and Chinese – whose educational and income per capita levels are now, on average, above whites – and Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Caribbeans, and Somalis who languish at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. The well-established segregated mono-cultural, mono-faith neighbourhoods particularly of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in towns and cities across the country provide ample evidence of their low levels of integration, and what I have analysed as high levels of ‘psychic detachment’ from mainstream society.

But the relative prosperity of Hindus, Sikhs, and East African Asians does not necessarily indicate high levels of integration. Indeed, well-to-do ethnic minority professionals and business people residing in mixed neighbourhoods can – and often do – lead highly segregated lives with few points of contact with those not from their own religious-ethnic community and so also display high levels of psychic detachment. Goodhart cites the example of ‘Punjabi Wolves’, Sikh supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, as an instance of integration. This is odd; in fact it is a mark of separation – just as if Kashmiri fans of Bradford Football Club formed a ‘Kashmiri Lions’ supporters group. The genuine integrationist route would be for Sikh fans to join the Wolverhampton FC supporters club as a mark of unity.

Goodhart retraces a controversial argument he put forward in 2004 about the impact of high levels of immigration on society – the ‘progressive dilemma’, that is, the conflict between diversity and solidarity. Basically, the more diverse (by ethnicity or religion) a society is, the less the likelihood of solidarity, and this is a contributory factor for the erosion of support for higher levels of general taxation which underpin the welfare state. 

The US is an example of a highly diverse society which, as a result, has low levels of solidarity – Robert Putnam’s uncomfortable research suggests that the higher the percentage of immigrants in an area in the US, the lower is the level of trust. This is thought to provide the explanation for the minimal welfare services in America (it remains the one developed country without universal health care): put bluntly, white Americans are reluctant to see their taxes going to welfare programmes to support blacks and Latinos. By the same token, increased diversity from recent mass immigration in Europe is likely to lead to a diminution in solidarity and, accordingly, in support for strong welfare services. There is not yet enough compelling evidence in support of this hypothesis – but even the situation in the US can be open to a different interpretation.

The strong welfare provisions in Western Europe are often associated with the formation of political parties with strong links with trade unions which garnered sufficient support to form governments that pushed through fundamental welfare reforms after the destruction and sacrifice of World War 2. In stark contrast, America has never had such a party let alone a social democratic consensus that became the norm in post-War Western Europe – which is to say that even if America had an entirely white population, there is no guarantee it would have obtained Europe’s level of welfare services; on the contrary, it may still have had rather weaker welfare services akin to those obtaining in ethnically homogenous Japan.

What can boost solidarity in ethnically diverse societies are core commonalities among the established population and migrant settlers. Here Goodhart does offer some suggestions: the stress on English language proficiency for all immigrants is indeed important. Beyond this, however, what is recommended is largely symbolic – citizenship ceremonies in town halls are perhaps an improvement to the purely bureaucratic form-filling of the past but, nonetheless, this is weak in forging commonalities, and of the need to robustly tackling the separatist dynamic now so prevalent. 

The lengthy discussion of the various ‘sub-nationalisms’ that have arisen in the devolved nations within the UK is not really germane. The suggestion that Asians are enthusiastically identifying with Scottish nationalism is of limited import. The fact remains that Glaswegian Asian Muslims are far closer to Asian Muslims in Lancashire, Yorkshire, or Birmingham – and indeed with Muslims in Pakistan – than with non-Muslim Scots. Their espousal of Scottish nationalism is in line with being identified as ‘British’ in the rest of the UK. The problems of separateness and high levels of psychic detachment that emanate from their strong religious identity remains – and this has been allowed to nurture throughout Britain. Therefore, the discussion on the implications of Scotland becoming independent is largely irrelevant.

The great lacuna of the book, in how to truly forge a meaningful common citizenship, is the failure to address the core factors for segregation, poor levels of integration and social cohesion, which have led to parallel lives and high levels of psychic detachment. The answer is blindingly obvious (indeed Goodhart singles out Muslims in his key theses given above): the vast bulk of immigrants from outside Europe, be it from former colonies or not, have very strong religious identities. Certainly governments have been all-too-willing to accept these settlers in their own terms – the laissez faire approach. More than that, both the present Coalition government and the previous Labour government have fuelled this by stressing ‘our multi-faith society’. Goodhart acknowledges this by asserting that ‘[r]ather than appealing to Muslims and Sikhs or other minorities as British citizens and trying to draw them into the mainstream political process, local and national politicians came to see them as people whose primary loyalty was to their faith and culture and who could be politically engaged only by their own leaders’.

History, however, shows that faith identities are divisive and militate against integration and social cohesion. The lesson of Northern Ireland is a sobering reminder: for most people in mainland Britain – for whom religion is of little and rapidly vanishing importance – it comprises sectarian identities. The Dutch writer Ian Buruma provided an insightful explanation for the sudden rise of the populist politician Pim Fortuyn in the early 2000s which is highly relevant here: ‘Fortuyn’s venom is drawn more from the fact that he, and millions of others, not just in the Netherlands, but all over Europe, had painfully wrested themselves free from the strictures of their own religions. And here were these newcomers injecting society with religion once again’.

It naturally follows that a sine qua non for engendering a common citizenship is for the reversal of the ‘injection of society with religion’. This means lessening – and ultimately removing – the mark of religious identity and, accordingly, necessitates, in Paul Cliteur’s words, a ‘secular outlook’ and the thoroughgoing secularisation of society. Of paramount importance in this regard is the phasing out of faith schools: there is now mounting evidence to show that minority faith schools in particular are deeply problematic and constitute a transmission belt for the inculcation of sectarian identities infused with obscurantism and dogma that is quite unsuitable for children in a modern 21st century multi-ethnic society.

To sum up, Goodhart’s analysis of the problems is far better than the solutions proffered. As someone espousing liberal, social democratic beliefs, another lacuna is the absence of the ideas of some of the foremost liberal thinkers: no Voltaire and John Stuart Mill on the defence of freedom of criticism and expression; no recourse to John Rawls as to how a liberal society should deal with the illiberal; and no mention of Brian Barry whose Culture and Equality was the first major – and devastating – critique of multiculturalism from a liberal perspective. Setting aside these shortcomings, David Goodhart has written a seminal, courageous, book that is likely to prove enormously influential on key debates on the nature of British society for years to come.

Decoupling of Immigration and Race in Britain



In the hue and cry in Britain - and indeed to some extent, in other EU countries - over the impending arrival of migrants from the new accession states of Bulgaria and Romania, one factor that has historically been closely associated with immigration is thankfully missing - that of race. This has been one consequence of the arrival of large numbers of East Europeans since 2004 when eight former Eastern bloc countries (whose populations are almost entirely white) were given full EU membership. It follows that opposition to more migrants from Eastern Europe stems from other factors.

Contrast this with the situation in the first three decades of immigration post-World War II when most migrants were non-whites from colonies and former colonies in the Caribbean, South Asia, and East Africa. It is important to remember that migrants from the Caribbean colonies - who were often enticed to work in the booming post-war economy - were British subjects so had the right to enter Britain without restriction. Hostility to what was then described as "coloured immigration" was clearly a manifestation of racism and discussed as the "colour" or "race relations problem".

It was not until the 1980s - and the outbreak of riots throughout that decade by young urban West Indians - that there was finally agreement among mainstream political parties that it was no longer appropriate to deem settlers and their children from the former colonies as "coloured immigrants" but rather to regard them as "Black British" or "British Asian" and consider them as fellow citizens.

Though racism still exists, great progress has been made: In practically all walks of life, non-whites are now very much part of the landscape of British society. And this has also applied to more recent settlers: Mo Farah's achievements on the athletic track have been warmly embraced, so much that he became one of the foremost symbols of the London 2012 Olympics. Born in Somalia, he was celebrated as a great British sporting hero, no less than Bradley Wiggins or Ben Ainslie. Similarly, the fact that many other Team GB members were black or had a black parent was of little import.

But while it is fair to say that the present opposition to immigration is largely devoid of the poisonous racism of yesteryear, nevertheless the level of opposition is very high. In a 2007 Ipsos-MORI poll - the year before the financial crisis began - 64 percent said that immigration controls should be much tougher and a further 12 percent said it should be stopped altogether, while 68 percent agreed that there were already too many immigrants in Britain.

Indeed, it appears that opposition to immigration has increased further in the intervening years. The current British Social Attitudes Survey (highlighted by a BBC 2 programme "The truth about immigration" in January) suggests that 77 percent of Britons want to see a cut in immigration - and 56 percent want to see a major crackdown. Moreover, 47 percent thought immigration was bad for the economy, and among the 31 percent of respondents who said it was good for the economy, half wanted to see immigration reduced.

What is interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive is that there is also substantial opposition to immigration from ethnic and religious minorities. In data compiled by Birkbeck College academics Eric Kaufman and Gareth Harris from Citizenship Surveys for 2007-2011 for the Demos think-tank, 77 percent of UK-born Sikhs, 65 percent of UK-born Hindus and 55 percent of UK-born Muslims want to reduce immigration; though these are significant majorities, they are lower than the 83 percent of UK-born white British who want to reduce immigration. There was no significant difference along class lines.

The Demos project "Mapping Integration" (whose steering committee is chaired by former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips and on which I also sit) seeks to understand the core reasons for this quite extraordinary unease with immigration - an issue that was of minimal concern in the early 1990s. It is such poll findings that are having a profound political impact: from Labour to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), clamping down hard on immigration seems to be the settled political will. It is this issue that is driving the possibility of UKIP gaining the highest votes in this year's EU elections and, moreover, it might also result in a "No" vote in the promised referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

A key contributory factor for the widespread opposition to immigration is that the host population has serious concerns from the impact of large-scale, sudden inflows of new settlers not only on economic factors such as jobs and wages, together with pressure on public services, but also on the impact on communities. The latter has been an issue that has historically been neglected. But evidence is likely to show that where the character of a neighbourhood undergoes rapid change by newcomers, many of the indigenous population, apart from voicing opposition to this change, simply vote with their feet; this phenomenon is commonly referred to as "white flight". It appears to be particularly acute in London whose white British population fell from 58 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2011 - as 600,000 White Londoners left the capital city.

Nevertheless, given the firm desire to implement even stricter immigration controls on the part of both white and ethnic minority British citizens, the old refrain that hostility to immigration was code for racism no longer holds; to a significant extent, immigration and race have been decoupled.

Attention now needs to turn with much vigour on the part of national and local governments to the task of integrating well the large numbers of immigrants who have settled in the country. If this is done properly, there is every reason to hope that the issue of immigration will subside in importance to the levels obtained in the early 1990s, and Britain will be the better for it. The findings of the Demos project should aid in not only providing solid evidence but also in suggesting pointers to efficacious policies in this regard, not just in Britain but also in other developed countries with large immigrant communities.

Published on Al Jazeera English Opinion on 24th January 2014

Problems of laissez faire extend beyond economics



The theoretical underpinning of the modern global economy has broken loose. The so-called Washington consensus based on neoclassical, laissez-faire economics has encountered a sustained challenge from the 2008 financial crisis and alternatives are being actively sought. It’s about time Nigel Farage was not left as the only voice doing the same when we consider the impact of immigration and multiculturalism.

Establishing a new economic consensus might take a while, but what is clear is that there has been no vigorous attempt by the leaders of the global economy to return to laissez-faire capitalism. On the contrary, a firmly regulated market economy with robust government intervention appears to be the order of the day.

It is curious then that those who have been most critical of neoclassical economics in the West – in the main from the left – have tended to agree with its approach with regard to immigration. While they adopt demand controls on cross-border movement of goods, services, finance, and investment, they are in favour of a “borderless” world for people. This contradiction has usually been justified by the belief that it is a human right to live anywhere in the world.

The economic case for this approach to immigration is straightforward: labour is a mobile factor of production that must be permitted to move freely to wherever there is demand for it, improving global efficiencies and resource allocation. It naturally follows that immigration will help raise economic growth and, conversely, immigration controls can be a barrier to growth. But evidence suggests immigration does not necessarily have an overall positive impact on growth.

Cultural baggage

But the social, political and cultural impact of mass immigration has been of little concern to the laissez-faire economists for whom labour is simply labour. Historically, the well-intentioned focus of those favouring this approach to immigration has been on immigrants themselves, on the difficulties of settlers in new lands and societies far from home

But immigrants are people who bring with them all manner of cultural and religious attributes – some of which are very much at odds with those in the society in which they have settled. As I have argued before, for advocates of open borders, a similarly laissez-faire approach to the culture and religious characteristics of immigrants is adopted under the rubric of “multiculturalism”, the theoretical underpinning for which is cultural relativism.

The outcome of this is that immigrants are allowed to lead lives pretty much akin to those they might have led in their places of origin. That being so, some groups – particularly in segregated neighbourhoods – have proceeded to demand separate rights, resources, institutions and exemptions to the law.

In stark contrast, little, if any, attention has been paid to such non-economic impacts of mass immigration on the established population. On the contrary, it is argued that national and local governments, as well as the indigenous population, must accommodate to the modus vivendi and separatist demands of the settlers. It transpires that this neglect of the views of the majority population is a prime cause for the increasing angst around the subject.

Quite simply, very large numbers of people are opposed to the often profound transformation to their communities from large-scale immigration and are saying enough is enough. This is a key reason why opinion polls show a large majority of the population (77% according to the recent British Social Attitudes Survey) want to see immigration reduced. What is particularly revealing is that of the 31% who think that immigration is good for the economy, half still wish to see it cut.

‘Unrecognisable’ Britain

The sentiments behind this have been picked up by Nigel Farage of UKIP – a free marketeer – by his argument that some things are more important than economic growth. The inference was made clear in his speech at the UKIP spring conference on February 28 when he argued that parts of Britain have become “unrecognisable” because of immigration. In fact, this line of reasoning has usually been used by those opposed to laissez-faire economics. Consider environmentalists’ demands for green policies – which businesses argue are harmful to economic growth – as an essential element in switching to renewable energy in order to cut greenhouse gas and tackle climate change.

Those advocating a laissez-faire approach to culture and faith should beware a common paradox. Often no such freedom is on offer to those within the segregated religious-ethnic minority communities that have sprung up in many towns and cities. On the contrary, for very many their lives are dictated by high levels of intervention from family members and community leaders, so that the outcome for them is distinctly devoid of individual liberty. The often highly oppressive consequence of this for these citizens is, in fact, mono-culturalism and mono-faithism.

So a laissez-faire stance on culture has contributed to significant levels of self-segregation, isolation, and lack of integration. Just as unfettered laissez-faire economics is rightfully thought to have been harmful, so it is time for more people than Farage to recognise that a similar approach to culture and religion runs counter to the goal of social cohesion.

Published in The Conversation on 11th March 2014

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