Friday, November 16, 2007

Foreign jobs for British workers

Let’s play a game. I’m going to give you a quote – I won’t tell you who it’s from, but maybe you can guess – and then I’ll ask you a question about what the quote means.

And in Britain where once there were three million unemployed, there are today more men and women in jobs than ever in our history - for the first time over 29 million people in work. And we will continue to intensify the reform of the new deal, remove every barrier, show we can have flexibility and fairness together to advance to a Britain of full employment in our generation. …
As we set out on the next stage of our journey this is our vision: Britain leading the global economy – by our skills and creativity, by our enterprise and flexibility, by our investment in transport and infrastructure – a world leader in science; a world leader in financial and business services; a world leader in energy and the environment from nuclear to renewables; a world leader in the creative industries; and yes – modern manufacturing too – drawing on the talents of all to create British jobs for British workers.

How would you interpret that last bit? (a) ‘We’re going to restrict the right of foreigners to work here’; or (b) ‘We’re going to give extra training to British people so that Britain will attract more skilled jobs’.

Clue: the speaker has spent ten years as a leading member of a government that has overseen a rise in economic immigration and has also put a lot of effort into training people as part of an employment-boosting strategy.

Have a think. Because if it’s (b), then most of the criticism of that last line has been completely misplaced - and indeed it might have been better put as ‘foreign jobs for British workers’. Doesn’t sound so punchy, though. Bloody multinationals: coming over here, hiring our workers…

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