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Mail plays the numbers game – badly

October 28, 2010

***Update*** There’s a very good post about this on Left Foot Forward.  Skip this one and go here instead.

The Mail claims:

On the basis of the Daily Mail figures, Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK said:

‘This must surely spell the end of so-called skilled migrants coming to Britain in search of a job. That route should be cancelled to allow some headroom for skilled people who employers actually want.’

Let’s have a closer look at those figures, shall we?  The sample of 1,184 forms completed by skilled migrants (not ‘so-called’ skilled migrants, as Sir Andrew describes them, but including people with post-graduate degrees) produced these results:

The results showed only one in four was in a skilled job. Another 29 per cent were in unskilled roles that did not earn them the £25,000 they would need to extend their visa. Of those, nearly half had been in the country for at least a year.

Some 46 per cent of cases were classified as ‘unclear’ because the applicants failed to give job details.

One in four, or 25% of skilled migrants were in skilled jobs.  29% were in unspecified unskilled jobs paying below £25,000.  46% of the forms analysed were not classified as either skilled or unskilled because job details were not included.  This immediately means the one in four figure used in the headline is not correct.  46% of the data is missing, and, because of this, a figure of around one in two would have been more accurate (although somewhat less dramatic).

Never one to let misrepresented figures get in the way of a bit of anti-immigration rhetoric, The Mail goes on to say:

Astonishingly, those who do not find highly skilled jobs have not breached the terms of their visa and cannot be removed.

Once here, they can apply to bring in their husband or wife, and children.

Imagine, letting people who are working and contributing tax revenue stay in the country, and allowing them to bring their families too, families they will be providing for themselves.  Disgraceful!

The second to last paragraph of the article contains a bit of information from the Home Office report that suggests the timing of the study, during a recession, may have had an impact on the figures:

The report said: ‘Economic conditions at the time of this study may also mean this group [Tier 1] have found it harder to acquire employment than another similar group of applicants would do in a period of economic growth’.

Perhaps there is a debate to be had about skilled migrants securing jobs before they arrive in the UK, as suggested in this article.  In all honesty, I don’t know enough about skill gaps in the labour market to make an informed argument on the subject.  However, presenting misleading statistics, and garnering quotes from a man whose organisation provides rent-a-quotes and lobbies against immigration, is not the best or most honest way to tackle the debate.  It is what I’ve come to expect from The Mail, though.  They have a narrative to sell, and they’re relentless in pursuit of it.

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