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Why is UK Burning?

This discussion on Facebook got me thinking - are the riots in UK a result of simply unemployment or immigration of unskilled labour? I think the answer is not so simple. Let's look at the facts:

  • It isn't the immigrant labour force which is engaged in rioting. A lot of rioters are 15-18 year old natives of the UK - born and brought up in the UK. Born to parents who themselves were NOT immigrants but locals.
  • A lot of those who claim they are unemployed and can't make ends meet are also those who often "refuse" to work. 
I think what we are seeing in the UK is a combined result of bad educational set up and uncontrolled immigration of skilled as well as unskilled labour.

The educational set up in UK has lost its synchronization with the demands that its local economy makes of it. Universities churn number of students who are qualified in subjects which have no practical use in the real world. This isn't very dissimilar with the set up in India in the 1970s when student protests broke out in India as well and emergency was imposed. (The Janta Party govt which followed the emergency was mostly elected with support from student aligned political parties).

As a result, while at one hand unemployment grows, the UK economy's demands for skilled professionals is not satisfied by local professionals. This has resulted in the country to allow large scale immigration of skilled labour - Asians, Africans and even Americans and non-British Europeans are found running major parts of the  businesses based out of the UK. 

At the same time, students who are well educated - many of them graduates and post graduates - do not find it easy to take up jobs which do not justify their qualifications. The regular economy jobs such as Cabbies, electricians, plumbers, chauffeurs, Janitors etc. Again, as a result - UK allowed large scale immigration of unskilled labour from across the globe, Asians, Polish, Irish and Africans dominate this segment of the employment market as well! In fact, if you take a black cab in the UK, you have a 75% chance of it being chauffeured by a South Asian.

Over a period of time, as the number of unemployed natives grows - the problem becomes even more morose because even if some native educated citizens are willing to work on such jobs involving labour, immigrant labour emerges as a cheaper option for employers. This creates a vicious cycle where immigrants keep gaining more currency in the economy across levels of the market while natives keep loosing their jobs. 

The only way to keep this balance is what most countries in Middle East do - they have laws for businesses to employ a minimum number of locals - irrespective of their abilities, costs or qualifications. Another way to do this is what US does by its tight immigration norms. 

Tighter immigration norms which require companies to justify the need for immigrant labour, make it difficult and costlier to hire labour for low value jobs which do not require specialization - these jobs are often those which do not require high qualifications - Cabbies ... Janitors - quoted above. This way jobs which are localized within the economy, which can never be outsourced stay with the native population arresting to a greater extent a cyclical rise in unemployment numbers. 

I do hope Britain learns the lesson and so do other countries which will face similar problems in future.

Photo of Croydon riots by tgeasland

2 Comments to " Why is UK Burning? "

  1. It's timely. Nice article

  2. good thoughtful reading.


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