The Secret Deal that Threatens the Food on Your Plate

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A controversial trade deal between the EU and the US is now being negotiated. The biggest in history, it has the power to affect every part of the food chain.  Untangling the EU-US trade talks : What are the big concerns for food & farming?  What might be the consequences for our food and farming?

The Secret Deal that Threatens the Food on Your Plate

Published on Mar 19, 2014

 

Why is TTIP more than a trade agreement?

The true effect of Immigration on Economics

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In the last few months, we have seen a desperate Coalition led by Tories, and supported by the right-wing media attempting to shift the perceived blame for the pain from their Austerity Policies so as to divide ordinary people. The rise in UKIP has unnerved them.  We have seen reactionary policies proposed and vile statements and touring vans reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Why?

It is unsurprising that people struggling to find work are angry that cheap labour is being employed. The erosion of workers’ rights, the increase in temporary work, the exploitation of workers at home and abroad by unscrupulous employers which is leading to the division in the electorate and can only result in maintaining the status quo as it divides working people. We look to a united left, to a tough Labour Party which will be tough on the bankers which created the crisis, the exploitative employers, and the rich, parasitic corporations whose personal finances accumulate unsustainably. Immigration is not to blame for the rising cost of living and families being plunged into poverty. Exploitative policies are. Michael Burke’s article puts the issue in perspective. 

Economics and the debate on immigration

Previously published on Socialist Economic Bulletin
By Michael Burke

Political parties in Britain have once more begun to talk about immigration, especially in the wake of the Eastleigh by-election. Unfortunately the debate is usually an all-informed one and typically just a cover to introduce racist notions about the impact of immigration. Therefore it is useful to examine some of the more important economic aspects of immigration.

Immigration

There are a number of countries in the world which have a higher per capita GDP than Britain. There are also a number of countries in the world who have a higher proportion of migrants as a proportion of the population. Both those facts are worth stating simply because discussion in Britain often seems to be dominated by the implicit assumption that Britain is both uniquely attractive to migrants and that it alone experiences immigration.

The chart below shows the countries with higher levels of per capita incomes than Britain. It also shows those countries proportion of the population which is migrant, that is not born in the host country. The table below specifies the data shown in the chart.

Chart 1

Immigration chart1jpg

Table 1

Immigration table 1

There are 13 countries in the world with a higher per capita income than Britain. Of these, 10 countries have a higher proportion of migrants. Some of these, such as Australia, Switzerland and Luxembourg have very much higher levels of immigration and have a much higher level of incomes.

There are 3 countries which have higher incomes but lower levels of immigration. However, of these 2 countries, Norway and Iceland have higher per capita GDP because they have a very large energy resource that comes pumping out of the ground (oil and geothermal energy). The remaining country is Belgium, whose geographic position means it has an exceptionally high proportion of people who work in Belgium but commute there from other countries.

By contrast, among the 18 OECD countries with a lower per capita income than Britain 12 also have a lower proportion of the population as migrants. The remaining 6 countries are small economies which generally have specific geographic or historical reasons for unusually high levels of immigration, or both. (The exception in this group is France).

Migration is part of growth

According to the IMF the total number of migrants in the world rose from 75 million people in 1965 to 195 million in 2005. Official data shows that most of that is to high income countries, about 80 million and most of the remainder to middle income countries.

The growth in the world’s migrant population is far more rapid than the growth in the total population. Over the same 40-year period to 2005, the world population doubled while the migrant population grew by 3 times.

However, this cross-border migration captures only a fraction of the world’s total migrant population. From a strict economic perspective there is little difference between cross-border migration and internal migration. This is especially the case when internal migration encompasses vast distances and differences of language or dialect.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics in 2008 there were 285 million internal migrants in China. This is far larger than the world’s total number of cross-border migrants. For the migrants themselves this frequently encompasses far greater geographical distances than is required, say, in intra-Western European migration. This level of migration is certainly the greatest level of internal migration in human history. It is also associated with the greatest rate of growth for any major economy in world history.

In India the level of internal migration is over 300 million people according to UNESCO. India’s medium-term growth rate is below that of China, but both countries have been growing at a rate considerably faster than the high income countries. The rate of internal migration has been a necessary accompaniment to high growth rates.

Correlation does not prove causality. But within the high-income countries higher levels of income are associated with higher levels of migration. Within the middle income countries, higher growth rates are associated with higher levels of internal migration.

Economic development depends on two key factors, the proportion of national income devoted to investment and increasing participation in the division of labour. Migration is a key part of the division of labour, allowing workers to migrate where production (and wages and jobs) are expanding. It also allows production to increase on the basis of employing the most adaptable workers.

Opposition to immigration

The government has recently produced a video to show potential migrants from Romania and Bulgaria that Britain is not a great country to emigrate to. There is a certain logic to this. The only way to stop immigration over the medium-term is to reduce the growth rate of the economy to zero or below. This is the basis for the government’s self-proclaimed success in reducing net migration in the most recent data; by curbing overseas students growth is directly reduced. Of course prolonged economic stagnation would also lead to a more rapid swelling of the 5 million British people who now live overseas.

Immigration of all types provides a substantial net benefit to the British economy, which a Home Office report clearly demonstrates. Growth attracts immigration but is also increased by it. The proportion of workers leaving a country will increases when there is an economic downturn and the proportion of the workforce arriving from overseas will tend to decrease. The reverse is also true: net immigration increases when the economy prospers.

There are a series of reactionary myths about immigration, which are perpetuated in the labour movement by outfits such as ‘Blue Labour’. These tend to focus on the supposedly local or microeconomic effects of immigration, particularly that they drive down wages. These arguments are a rehash of Labour notions which opposed the growth of women in the workforce and even supported restricting their wages relative to men.

Jonathan Portes has done very good work in countering the assertions that immigration drives down wages, even for the very lowest paid workers in Britain. As the Home Office study shows, the average wages for migrant workers in Britain are also about 5% higher than British workers, because on average they are more highly qualified. The relationship between unemployment and immigration is also equally clear; immigration increases while unemployment falls and vice versa.

Chart 2

Immigration Chart2

In reality the debate on immigration in Britain is not about the economic causes and consequences of immigration at all. It is overwhelmingly a ‘debate’ that allows politicians and others to whip up xenophobia and racism, while posing as being concerned about the interests of workers or the poor. The cause of migration is growth, to which migration is a decisive contributor. The consequence is stronger growth. The contrary argument is being raised now as a reactionary diversion from the current economic crisis, and the policies which are responsible for it.

References and Further Reading:

114 year Workers Rights Scrapped by Coalition Government.

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 114 year Workers’ Rights Scrapped  by Coalition Government.

From @Earwiggle

So, it’s official – workers today have less entitlement to be safe at work than those in Victorian Times. That the Government supports those who work and strive to support families is a nonsense. Consistently, we witness the Coalition continuously and callously attack ordinary working people.  David Cameron rejoices at a return to the Victorian “Golden Age”. (1)

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I recall a death certificate which I acquired from genealogical research. Metal polishing in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter in Victorian Times meant working with toxic metals, and one woman met her death when her crinoline became trapped in a lathe. These workers lived in poverty  in insanitary back-to-back-housing, in poor health due to poor diet. Elsewhere, children were working in cotton mills and on the land, with little or no education and with dangerous machinery. I had imagined this was history – not the future.

The Institute for Employment Rights reports:

Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:

Last week, on the 25th April 2013, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was granted royal assent, bringing into law the government’s widely unpopular proposals to scrap employers’ 114-year-old liability for their staff’s health and safety in the workplace.

This means that the burden of proof now falls on the employee to show that the employer had been negligent in their duties towards them, rather than the employer being asked to prove they were following regulations correctly, as has been the case since the Victorian era. This is likely to result in injured workers, and the families of the deceased, being unable to claim compensation for their losses due to accidents at the workplace, seeing as the evidence needed to prove negligence is held by the employer rather than the employee – and employers guilty of negligence are unlikely to willingly hand over the proof. (2)

The  Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill ERRB was amended at the very last minute  by the government, by insertion of 61 clause which will mean that a worker can be injured due to an employer’s breach of a statutory duty within health and safety at work regulations but the worker will be prevented from enforcing that breach.

At present a civil claim for personal injury can be brought for negligence and/or breach of statutory duty. A breach of statutory duty would occur, for instance, if an employer failed to comply with regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), such as failure to guard a machine or keep a gangway clear of obstructions. (3)

Employers will no longer be liable in the civil courts for the criminal offence of a breach of the HSWA regulations. In every case, rather than be able to rely on the breach of the regulations, the worker will have to prove the employer was negligent.

With the removal of legal aid, non unionised workers would be unable to challenge. Workers vulnerability to exploitative employers has been set back more than a century. Rights achieved by solidarity of working people by the Labour Movement have been ripped away. Labour opposed the ERRB Bill and must ensure a reversal when returned to government.

The ERRB motion was passed before some voters went to the polls in Local Elections last week , and without mention on the BBC and little in mainstream news.

On 16th April the government abolished the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, (AWWB) without even a debate (4)  in the Commons. This will result in poverty and could lead to exploitation of children.

Next – the minimum wage is to be targeted. Introduced by the Labour Party, this lifted many from abject poverty.  The Telegraph (5) reports that the minimum wage is at risk, and   it could be frozen, or cut. This will put millions at risk of poverty. We are living in a divided society, where women and children are being hit hardest. People are going into debt to eat and we are seeing a resurgence of scurvy. How can this be even contemplated?

Labour List on Minimum Wage Cut

Before it was introduced millions were working for terrifyingly small salaries as low as £1 an hour. The minimum wage made work pay and released millions from the most abject poverty. Despite the scare-mongering from the right, it didn’t cost jobs. It set a legal floor below which we as a society said we would not allow – or force – people to go.  (6)

We are seeing so many of Labour’s achievements in government being rolled back, the NHS, welfare state, free school meals and improved access to education.  Add to that Legal Aid, the Open University, and women’s rights. In recent years, Surestart and the Minimum Wage. Equality for Women is threatened as the Government attacks Maternity Rights, and ChildCare Support. The Tories say they want “work to pay” … but it’s certainly  not the workers who will benefit, it’s employers and big business.

The Conservative Party have not won a General Election in 21 years , yet the Liberal Democrats continue to keep this extreme, reactionary government in power, allowing  total destruction of the Welfare State, stripping assets built and earned by working people and actively pursue policies which erode Workers’ Rights. Will Liberal Democrats look to their consciences and walk?

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

  1. Guardian: Conservative Nostalgia for Victorian Times is Dangerous
  2. Employment Rights: Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:
  3. RMT -Transport  Union: Return of the Dark Satanic Mills: The End of Civil Liability in Health and Safety
  4. MPs abolish Farm Wages Board  Farmers Weekly
  5. Telegraph: Minimum Wage could be Frozen or Cut, Government Suggests
  6. Labour List: They’re coming after the Minimum Wage – Get Angry!
  7. Maternity Action : Policy and Research
  8. Think Left: Remember the Real Divide – it is Rich and Poor
  9. GMB: Government taking Workforce back to Victorian Times
  10. Morning Star: UKIP MEP blasted after Maternity Rights Rant
  11. Guardian: One is Seven Women made Redundant after Maternity Leave
  12. BBC: Many are borrowing for food