We have one of the usual arguments here about immigration. An employer, in this case Dominos, says that they could hire 1,000 people immediately if only people could be bothered to to do the work they are offering. The response was that perhaps they should try paying a little more in order to encrouage people to apply:
The immigration minister, Mark Harper, has hit back at employers who say they have to recruit foreign workers from outside Europe to fill low-paid jobs by telling them they should offer better wages. Harper said that Lance Batchelor, the chief executive of Domino's Pizza, should reflect on the salaries he was offering if he could not fill 1,000 vacancies without recruiting unskilled staff from outside Europe. The immigration minister told the Commons home affairs select committee: "He should probably pay his staff a little more and he might find them easier to recruit. It's a market."
That's a fine answer as far as it goes: but it's not really a complete analysis of the situation. For what it's leaving out is the rigging of that market by government itself. We're all aware that we have a serious problem with the tax and benefit withdrawal rates on the low paid in this country. There are millions who face marginal rates above 60% and even tens of thousands facing them of over 100%. And it is indeed the change in disposable income which is the incentive to work or not, not the wages that you are nominally being paid.
OK, now think of this same problem from the other side. Say Dominos is paying £7 an hour (I've no idea what the correct number is) and they cannot get the labour at this price. Sure, perhaps they should offer more to get what they want. But precisely because of the high tax and benefit rate they have to offer much more to change behaviour. If they offer another £1 an hour then only 40 p to nothing of that gets through to the disposable income of the worker they're trying to incentivise. So part of their problem is indeed that the government taxes the working poor too highly. A rise in hte personal allowance would help here.
But there's one more thing. Recent immigrants are not given access to hte full panoply of the welfare state and its subsidies. Therefore, as they work they face lower benefit withdrawal rates and thus greater changes in their disposable income from taking work or not. We've thus a rather perverse set of incentives built into how we do things. Recent immigrants are always going to be more likely to take low paid work than indigenes are, simply because we've structured the welfare system to create the incentives this way.