Britain, immigration, jobs and jacquboots


Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants to create more jobs for British workers. She doesn't want them going to these nasty foreigners who keep coming over here and snapping up the best placements. So she wants to make firms advertise job vacancies at JobCentres first, and try that, before offering a job to non-residents. The government says that this could mean 60,000 or more jobs going to Brits rather than foreigners.

This smacks of posturing, like Gordon Brown's famous 'British jobs for British people' speech of a year back.It took about twenty seconds for the European Union to point out that such a policy was illegal – jobs in any EU country have to be open to residents of any other EU country. (Though try to get a good job in France and you will quickly find whether the reality matches the rule.)

The trouble is that government officials tend to treat politicians' headline-grabbing soundbites seriously, and actually try to put them into practice. Doing so this time would be a very bad thing.

Smith is focusing on all those people who come from non-EU countries – the sort who cause her department so much trouble, even at the best of times. Firms, she thinks, should be forced to discriminate against them, and hire them only when there is no alternative.

This is a Jacquboot policy. We are supposed to be opposed to discrimination. And I can't see what business it is of the government who firms choose to hire. Left to their own devices, businesspeople will hire the workers they think are best for the job. So the job will be done better, or cheaper, and British business will benefit from it – which means the nation as a whole becomes more competitive, trade expands, and we all benefit. If firms are forced to hire particular workers just because politicians demand it, then they'll be getting second best. Already, many companies hire foreign workers because they find them not just willing to work for less, but willing to work harder or longer than many of their British counterparts.

Perhaps the possibility of being pipped to a job by some non-Brit might be a useful lesson to us all, that in Brown's fake boom we all got rather flabby and lazy, but the key of keeping a job in this competitive world is hard work.