Why the West has to import labour

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

People, especially young people, in the better-off countries of Western Europe very often have completely the wrong attitude to work, if they work. The result, writes Dalrymple, is that,

despite mass unemployment, we have to import labour

in order that certain kinds of work be done. In Ireland, for example, Dalrymple says that

an old lady of my acquaintance needed 24-hour attendance, and this was provided by a Filipina, even at a time when there was 15% unemployment in Ireland.

An important factor is the

system of social security and unemployment benefits. The economic difference between doing this type of work and not working is not great enough to entice any native to do it.

There is also a

psychological, cultural or even religious difference. The change in the title of the senior nurse in a hospital ward from sister to ward manager is indicative of a change in sensibility, from a residually religious notion of serving others to a technocratic one. In the popular imagination, the distinction between service and servitude has been more or less eliminated.

Dalrymple cites a sentence written by a columnist in the London newspaper the Guardian:

So when a girl at 17 decides to go ahead and have a baby, there is no tragedy of lost opportunity other than the local checkout till waiting for her low-paid labour.

Such a sentence, Dalrymple notes,

breathes snobbery and disdain for those who do such work; it assumes that once a checkout cashier, always a checkout cashier, a fate worse than death. That there might be people for whom such work is suitable and potentially not odious does not occur to the writer. What makes the work odious is not the work but those who communicate their disdain of it. Snobbery thus makes the import of labour necessary.

Take hotels. In Britain, Dalrymple points out,

all good hotels employ exclusively foreign labour. If you want to go to a really bad large hotel in Britain, find one in which the staff are British. It is guaranteed to be ill-kept, with slovenly service, not very clean, with atrocious food, grubby staff, inattention to detail. Even a foreign telephonist is likely to be better, and to speak better English, than an English telephonist. If you want a good or even only a decent hotel, you must find one in which all the staff are foreign. This is so whatever the unemployment rate, high or low.

Dalrymple says he asks people to imagine that they are employers who seek an employee to perform work that is not skilled but requires such characteristics as punctuality, politeness, willingness to oblige.

The imagined employer has two applicants about whom he knows only two things: their age (shall we say 24) and their nationality. One is British and one is Polish. Which of the applicants does the imagined employer choose? Not a single person to whom I have put this question has hesitated for a moment: he chooses the Pole.

Our need for migrants

has a cultural, not an economic root.

But of course,

this does not mean that we need all the migrants we are likely to get from wherever we get them.

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