In May 2017, British Labour leader and self-confessed socialist Jeremy Corbyn refused to commit to reducing immigration if he won the upcoming general election. He instead committed to scrapping ‘minimum-income rules’ for the partners of non-EU migrants, making it easier for them to enter Britain. In a BBC interview earlier that year, Corbyn had also insisted that EU immigration to the UK is not “too high”; despite the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reporting that 248,000 immigrants entered the country in 2016, and 332,000 the year before that. This is just the number of migrants that the ONS has data on as well; many more would have entered the nation illegally and undetected.
Left-wing political rhetoric is no different here in Australia. Despite having the largest per capita immigration levels in the OECD, in 2013, then Labor leadership hopeful Bill Shorten stated, “I do believe immigration levels can go up”, and that “[Labor] should be certainly, as a party, being seen to be pro-immigration and pro increasing it”.
This sentiment supporting mass immigration, which is promulgated by many left-wing politicians in the West, is also seldom questioned as being opposed to the doctrine of leftist thought. Indeed, the dichotomy in the West is now such that politicians on the Left are associated with policies supporting high immigration levels, while those on the Right are generally opposed. However, this dichotomy demonstrates a clear transition in the Left’s approach to politics. Indeed, the Western Left’s support for mass immigration illustrates that it is no longer focused on supporting the everyday working man. It has instead transitioned into an academicised movement representing the global social consciousnesses of liberal-minded members of the middle and upper classes.
In order to demonstrate the abandonment of the working classes by the Western Left, using the topic of mass immigration as a signifier, one must show how mass immigration is detrimental to working people.
First and foremost, this concept can be illustrated by the fact that mass immigration does harm working people with regards to employment. While an influx of migrants does not significantly lower the average wage of the native population; this is not the case across different pay brackets. Indeed, it is the working classes specifically that suffer the most as a result of high levels of immigration.
This is demonstrated in a 2013 paper entitled The Effect of Immigration along the Distribution of Wages, where Dustmann et al concluded that “immigration seems to put downward pressure on the lower part of the wage distribution but increases wages at the upper part of the distribution”. This paper, whose principal author Christian Dustmann is a University College London Economics Professor, displays similar results throughout. Indeed, this study found that “while immigration depresses wages below the twentieth percentile (bottom 20 per cent of income distribution), it contributes to wage growth above the fortieth percentile (top 60 per cent of income distribution)”.
Academics Stephen Nickell, of Nuffield College Oxford, and Jumana Saleheen, of The Bank of England, reached a similar conclusion in 2008. The pair found that the negative impacts of mass immigration on wages in the UK had “the biggest impact in the semi/unskilled services sector”. In other words, high levels of immigration were primarily detrimental to the working classes; the traditional supporter base of leftist political parties.
It thus follows from this academic research that not only is a high level of immigration damaging to working-class wages and employment; but it is also beneficial to the incomes of the middle and upper classes as well. The latter being a likely consequence of the former. This fact makes leftist thought on the matter all the more baffling. In an attempt to execute a hare-brained plan for global justice, in order to gain favour from the liberals of the middle and upper classes, the Western Left is abandoning the interests of working people, and as a consequence is favouring those of the rich.
Moreover, in Australia, high levels of immigration are also a significant contributing factor, albeit among others, of inflated house prices. This is just a basic issue of supply and demand in a nation where net overseas migration contributes to over half of the population growth.
Such is the level of immigration in Australia, that in the year before June 30, 2017, 183,608 permanent migrants officially came to Australia. That is approximately the number of residents in Geelong or Townsville. Having to build a new Geelong each year, ignoring native-born population increases, puts enormous pressure on the residential construction sector; and demand, especially in the cities, will always outstrip supply as long as this immigration trend continues.
When prices go up, it’s also the lesser paid members of the population that cannot enter the housing market. In an inflated market, it’s factory workers and car mechanics that can only afford to rent. Those at the top of the fiscal food chain will always be able to buy, and can also use their excess capital to profit from investment properties leased to working-class families.
Similar examples to the housing situation can also be seen in many public services. It is the working classes that, in the UK especially, struggle to get their children into government schools due to inordinately high application numbers; a direct consequence of high immigrant intake. The rich on the other hand can afford private education. It is the working classes that suffer when government healthcare struggles to maintain a quality service under the weight of many arrivals who, if refugees, experience disproportionately high rates of non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions. The rich can afford treatment elsewhere.
This again makes leftist support for mass immigration seemingly bizarre. By supporting a policy of mass immigration, the Western Left is disproportionately accentuating the issues the working classes face in getting into the property market, and receiving basic services, when compared to wealthier members of society. This consequently leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Western Left no longer cares primarily about working people.
The Left has switched focus to appeal to the consciousnesses of the liberal upper classes, which support mass immigration on the grounds of ‘compassion’. It no longer fights predominantly for the interests of the working classes, its traditional base; and instead dances to the tunes of intellectual liberal ideals such as ‘global justice’ and political correctness.
Overall, the Western Left’s support for high immigration levels is merely a signifier of a larger change in political approach. It is purely indicative of a paradigm shift in leftist thought; one that has far-reaching political ramifications. If one wants to know why it is that populist, anti-immigration parties are gaining support from working class people all across the Western world, then one only need ask themselves a single pertinent question. Who is it that stands for working people anymore? The answer, in the West at least, is no longer the Left.
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