By Peter Hoskin
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You’ll remember the controversy about Gordon Brown’s insistence on “British jobs for British workers”, I’m sure. Behind it lay not just a dispute at an oil refinery, but also concern at the number of “new jobs” that went to foreign-born people during the New Labour years, while Brits languished on out-of-work benefits.
But this wasn’t just a complaint that nagged at Blair and Brown, but at the Coalition too. It’s rather summed up by the graph below that I’ve produced from today’s labour market statistics. It shows the cumulative increase in employed UK-born people and employed foreign-born people since the second quarter of 2010. And what you’ll see is that the foreign-born workforce has grown by 353,000 over that time, whereas the UK-born workforce has increased by only 158,000:
So it’s New Labour all over again, right? Wrong. If you poke further into today’s statistics, there are signs that the balance is being reset. Here are the two things that struck me:
It’s different if you look at the past year
Over the past year, the increase in UK-born employment has far outstripped that in foreign-born employment. Here’s the graph:
In numbers: the UK-born workforce has increased by 190,000 since the second quarter of 2011; the foreign-born by 67,000.
It’s even more different if you consider nationality instead of birthplace
As it happens, I prefer to look at nationality when it comes to labour market statistics. Looking only at birthplace means that we place people like Boris in the non-UK column, which seems a little rum. So this is the picture with Boris and his fellow foreign-born UK nationals included:
Which is to say, the number of employed UK nationals increased by 246,000 over the past year, compared to only 15,000 for non-UK nationals. And, what’s more, this balance holds even if we cast back to 2010. The number of employed UK nationals has increased by 333,000 since the election, compared to 181,000 for non-UK nationals.
We shouldn’t rush to reach firm conclusions from statistics. The numbers do tend to fluctuate (note, for instance, the massive rise in UK-born workers after the election, in the first graph above) and the causes can be mysterious. But the trends are becoming sustained enough to give hope that the Work Programme is turning around Brown’s grim maxim — and creating British workers for British jobs.