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Weekend reading: Financial Independence against the odds

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What caught my eye this week.

Most of us moan now and then about life sneaking some booby-traps across our path to financial independence.

But few of us will face the hurdles overcome by The Humble Penny’s Ken Okoroafor and his family.

In a must-read guest post over at The Escape Artist this week, Ken relates how:

For a very long time, life in the UK felt like living in a prison. This is because we had a visa issue technicality on arrival in the UK. This meant we had no right to the NHS, no right to apply for jobs, no right to benefits etc. Basically no rights to anything till we heard back from the powers that be on what our future would be.

Months of waiting turned into years.

So how did we make money to buy food and survive? The only path available was to get creative and go underground.

A job at Pret would have been fantastic. However, that wasn’t an option. We needed to go lower – informal jobs cleaning factories, plate washing.

Do check out Ken’s full story to financial independence.

I’ve always been inspired by recent immigrants. In the main, statistics show they work hard, contribute more than they take out, and they are more entrepreneurial, too.

As I wrote back in 2007:

Mostly those who’ve taken the plunge and come to the UK don’t say, “We are very lucky to come here and scrounge from you stupid, lazy rich British.”

They say, “You British are very lucky to live here, to be able to make such money.”

They’re on a mission – the kind that happens when you decide to reinvent your life and choose your own path.

One of the many dismaying aspects of the Brexit referendum centered on immigration.

When the saner elements of the Leave campaign realized they couldn’t solely target EU migrants as a drain on the state – because such migrants contributed more than they put in – they shifted the argument to claim they were taking our jobs and driving down wages. Again with scant-to-no evidence.

One of the best retorts I ever read came in a comment from a Monevator reader:

The difference between “the poor Northener” and the “the poor immigrant” is that the poor Northeners can catch a train to visit their families on their days off, that they don’t have to learn a new language, and that they will have it even easier to find a job.

But because they don’t want to use their right for free movement (not even within their home country, FFS!), they decide to take that same right from other people.

[…]

London is a challenge for everybody who comes here, no matter where you are from.

I see 19-year-old girls who are still babies in their head leaving their family and their nice sunny beaches in Spain or Italy to come here and work 50-hour-weeks for £7.20 per hour and getting told off by their managers for being late for their 5a.m. shift, which happened because they don’t know what “this bus is on diversion” means.

They are afraid to lose their jobs for minor mistakes, because how shall they pay their rent…actually, how shall they pay their rent?

They don’t have a bank account and to open a bank account you need a proof of address and they don’t have a proof of address because flatsharers seldom have their name on utility bills, and their NINO appointment is only due in four weeks.

They are tired all the time, because they spend too much time commuting, and running errands or shopping for groceries takes five times as long in London as in any of their home towns.

When I say that my main reason for being here is that I love to be here, they look at me as if told them that I love to swim naked in the Thames every morning. I could go on forever.

The struggle is real, as they say. At least it is for those who take it on.

For others, easier to find a scapegoat.

Note: I’m publishing early this week. If I’ve missed anything good, please do feel free to pop it into the links below. Also, if people do want to debate immigration please do so respectfully. I’ll be moderating hard anything I personally deem racist or inflammatory. There are other places for that.

From Monevator

The Slow and Steady Passive Portfolio Update: Q3 2018 – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Valuing the market by P/E ratio – Monevator

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Potential conflict of interest remains as rules tightened on financial salary transfers – Money Observer

World markets rattled by US inflation concerns – Guardian

London house prices fall again as stamp duty and Brexit fears bite… – Guardian

…and luxury homes face new hit, as UK plans extra tax on foreign buyers – Bloomberg

…while new tube map shows flat affordability for every London station – Metro

(Click to enlarge)

How a few model portfolios have performed in the medium-term past [US but relevant]Wealth Management

Products and services

Santander launches robo-adviser for first-time investors – CityWire

New mobile bank N26 from Germany to launch current accounts in Britain – CNBC

Childcare Vouchers replaced by Tax-Free Childcare scheme – Your Money

Ratesetter will pay you £100 [and me a cash bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – Ratesetter

Mortgage rates for potential first-time buyers continue to fall – ThisIsMoney

Prenups are losing their stigma in the US – Business Insider

The best value used car is apparently the super-fancy Mercedes E-Class – ThisIsMoney

Comment and opinion

My best investment: Low returns, high value – The Vanguard blog

Try a modern spin on a classic idea with the Pinwheel Portfolio – Portfolio Charts

Rick Ferri interviews Vanguard’s founder Jack Bogle [Podcast]Rick Ferri

What if stocks don’t crash for a long time? – A Wealth of Common Sense

Make sure you’re not over-exposed before a [US] bear market comes – MarketWatch

Budget busting – The Humble Dollar

Are investment returns from cannabis stocks just a pipe dream? [Search result]FT

So much for the bond bubble – Morningstar

What happens after (in retrospect) stock market peaks – The Irrelevant Investor

Good health and fitness gives you optionality in retirement – Random Roger

Win or lose, every [trader] gets what they want out of the market – The Macro Tourist

Are you a UK start-up looking for funding? Here’s a guide to the UK’s top seed funds – Medium

Brexit

Paris set to triumph as Europe’s post-Brexit trading hub – FT via CNBC

Forget Brexit, we’re heading for BRINO [Brexit In Name Only. Search result]FT

Brilliant lampoon of the Tory’s miserable Brexit-addled conference – Guardian

The ‘opportunity’ created by Brexit [Graphic] – Seb Dance MEP via Twitter

EU negotiators see Brexit deal “very close” – sources – Reuters

Kindle book bargains

Way of the Wolf: Straight line selling: Master the art of persuasion, influence, and success by Jordan Belfort – £0.99 on Kindle

The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones – £0.99 on Kindle

The Slave Trade: History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas – £0.99 on Kindle

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

The war on sensible things continues, with Shetland no longer to be put in a box on maps – BBC

Hungry like a wolf [Video] – via Twitter

And finally…

“And when the golden handshake finally came, there you were at your leaving party one day, and the next you’d fallen off the proverbial cliff and on to the sofa, slippers at the ready. Easing into retirement by gradually reducing your hours was virtually unheard of.”
– Celia Dodd, Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 1 Neverland October 5, 2018, 11:50 am

    So I’m reading this article and its very clear:

    “we had […] no right to apply for jobs […] The only path available was to get creative and go underground.”

    Why you celebrating someone breaking the law in the UK exactly?

    Two of the major reasons many lower earners are against immigration is that:

    – they believe that immigrants undercut their wages on jobs by working unofficially below minimum wage

    – they believe immigration regulations are being flouted to the immigrants gain

    which is exactly what is happening here from what has been written by the man himself

    This guy should be investigated and maybe prosecuted

    Your scapegoat appears to the the “poor Northener” just the same as you say their scapegoat is the “immigrant”

  • 2 The Investor October 5, 2018, 12:20 pm

    As anyone else reading this can probably tell, I’m not celebrating the fact they had to go underground. He says himself the system screwed up. I suppose his family could have starved. (Also this was his parents, not him.)

    The poor northerner quote was not mine. It’s from a reader comment that itself is responding to a comment from blogger @ermine.

    That said I do blame this factually incorrect thinking partly for the Brexit farce. Not sure that’s a “scapegoat”, it’s a contributor to the 52%.

    At least some of them aren’t the brightest tools on the box. But you should know better. 🙂

  • 3 PendleWitch October 5, 2018, 12:26 pm

    I’m from the poor north (indeed I was a ‘poor northerner’); my sister-in-law, a semi-skilled sewing machinist, found herself priced out of her job by EU immigrants, prepared to work for much lower wages. No annual salary rise for her, not even the status quo, but ‘like it [the lower wage] or lump it’.

    Local people have families, homes, roots; this is their life, not a quick economic sabbatical to a richer country with higher wages, living in high-density rentals to make some nice money and head home in a year or two.

    I live in the rich south (!), am highly educated with an EU immigrant husband in a high-paying job. I suppose he’s taking the post a British person could do, but he isn’t squeezing the people at the very bottom of the ladder.

    People earning lower wages are by definition not high fliers, looking to relocate. They are likely not very qualified, want the local life that was traditional, seeing family, heading down to the pub. They want wages that allow a decent life. I know why Brexit happened, but I also know the EU made it easier for my husband to come here and make a life and family. There is no one right answer, despite lots of people thinking there is.

  • 4 The Investor October 5, 2018, 12:29 pm

    As I’ve said before, I have sympathy with the point of view that immigration happened too fast and at too great a scale. There are pressures, especially social.

    However the fact remains there is no broad evidence that EU migrants reduced wages. For memory just one study found it and the impact was tiny.

  • 5 Neverland October 5, 2018, 1:04 pm

    @Investor

    “the fact remains there is no broad evidence that EU migrants reduced wages. For memory just one study found it and the impact was tiny”

    Several studies point to small impacts at the lower end of the wage spectrum across the economy as a whole

    People experience the economy on an individual level however

    What we do know pretty much for certain is that the large majority of the financial benefit from immigration does accrue to the immigrant

    What the studies don’t measure is what the individual effects on low UK national wage earners are for immigration, e.g. would a lower qualified UK national have been given a higher skilled job that an immigrant took and received training or would the job have gone overseas?

    Since we are probably leaving the EU we might be better off having an immigration policy that taxes immigrants more heavily so that people can see indisputably that there is some benefit from it

  • 6 PendleWitch October 5, 2018, 1:16 pm

    @TI, thanks for responding. The following is pertinent, and shows not really so “tiny” for the people involved (who are people at the bottom end already): https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/working-paper/2015/the-impact-of-immigration-on-occupational-wages-evidence-from-britain.pdf?la=en&hash=16F94BC8B55F06967E1F36249E90ECE9B597BA9C

    “Closer examination reveals that the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector,
    where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2
    percent reduction in pay”.

    When you have employers actively recruiting from overseas, this can lead to a very large effect, but the headline from this report and others is used more often than this snippet.

  • 7 The Investor October 5, 2018, 1:32 pm

    [Sorry, went out of mobile range!]

    I’m sorry about your sister, but anecdote isn’t evidence.

    I’m certain if there was a smoking gun regarding wage impacts we’d have heard all about it. So many on the Leave side would leap on it. But we’ve just got – at best – a couple of studies showing a tiny impact on the lowest decile (as well as others showing no impact).

    Given pretty much all studies also show a net contribution to both GDP and also to the State coffers (because EU migrants are big net contributors via tax) then stopping EU migration isn’t going to help anyone.

    I appreciate that like the benefits of free trade this feels intangible. Someone sees a migrant doing a job and says “I could have done that job”. They don’t see the extra wealth created by the migrant, the extra haircuts she needs or the clothes he buys or the bank account he opens. (They do see the housing pressure, which as I just alluded to I think is a more legitimate issue. But not so much in the poorer regions that voted Brexit!)

    It’s like active fund management. “Sounds” obvious that a skilled person can pick better companies/shares. But in aggregate they can’t. What sounds right to everyone at first blush is actually wrong.

    Finally, for my part I never said there was an easy answer. Just that it wasn’t Brexit

  • 8 The Investor October 5, 2018, 1:41 pm

    P.S. Just to add I’m away now / this weekend (in a Leave voting area as it happens! 🙂 ) and on my ancient crappy mobile so won’t be able to respond as I’d like.

    I will be reading though, and resorting to deleting if things turn nasty. Thanks!

  • 9 The Investor October 5, 2018, 1:47 pm

    @neverland — last comment from me unfortunately… I’m not against an extra modest tax in principle, provided it’s time limited and clearly specified. (Say 1-2% for 10 years.)

    However ideally this would be in tandem with ALL tax payers seeing explicitly what they’ve paid in and ideally somehow what they’ve taken out.

    At least many would see the extent to which the middle class / moderately rich ARE paying their way and the way of plenty of these aggrieved too. (Rightly enough in my view.)

  • 10 The Investor October 5, 2018, 1:51 pm

    @pendlewitch — Apologies, our messages crossed and my big reply was written before I saw your follow up. Will take another look Monday but from memory that BOE study supports my view at least as much as the other.

  • 11 Vanguardfan October 5, 2018, 2:14 pm

    I do get heartily sick of the lazy stereotype that the Brexit vote was down to ‘poor northerners’. Please check out these maps:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36616028
    The leave vote was everywhere! (apart from maybe London, I will concede). Biggest concentrations look to me to be across the middle and eastern flank of England. And remember both Scotland and Northern Ireland were remain….

  • 12 hosimpson October 5, 2018, 2:17 pm

    Re: immigration
    A certain Dutchman of my acquaintance summed it all up quite brilliantly – “private dental, private medical, private schools, private pension. And if we’re not living off their welfare state, then we’re stealing their jobs.”

  • 13 dearieme October 5, 2018, 2:23 pm

    In economics it’s a near-universal truth that increased supply drives prices down. By what miracle is that not true of immigrants? When British and continental scientists were brain-draining to US universities after the war, did they not tend to hold academic salaries down below the level they would otherwise have reached? If not, why not?

  • 14 Rahul October 5, 2018, 2:26 pm

    As a first generation immigrant myself, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article. I moved here in 2010 and over that time have seen fewer and fewer people brave enough to put forward the arguments that you have presented publicly.

  • 15 PendleWitch October 5, 2018, 2:41 pm

    @Vanguardfan. I had to avert my eyes from those maps since Shetland was in a box 😉

  • 16 dearieme October 5, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Money Observer headline cock-up alert!
    “Budget busing”: monevator headline cock-up alert!

    ‘London house prices fall again as stamp duty, Brexit, and Corbyn fears bite…’ might have been nearer the mark.

    Harry Browne did reasonably well, I thought. His portfolio seems to attract unreasoning hatred on the pensions forum at MSE. Because of the gold. What’s the opposite of idolatry? A taboo?

    In my recent experience a Mercedes is lousy value if you are tall. I also found a big beamer noticeably uncomfortable a couple of years ago. Are the Germans shrinking?

    “Paris set to …”: I can’t remember which sage taught me never to waste time on journalism written in the future tense.

    The Hugh Thomas book his a good read if you have the stomach for it.

  • 17 The Investor October 5, 2018, 2:55 pm

    @dearieme — I’m not an economist and I’m in a taxi, but probably because immigrants create demand.

    It’s like a growing population is nearly always correlated with growing GDP.

    By the simple statement you’ve made, more supply (more people), would make countries poorer and/or reduce per capita GDP.

    That isn’t the case at all. 🙂

  • 18 Anonymous101 October 5, 2018, 2:56 pm

    I read the other comments with great interest. I’m from an area very close to PendleWitch judging by the name and although I didn’t want to initially enter the Brexit / Immigration debate I feel like I have to comment.
    I think that as misguided as a lot of the people that voted to leave the EU are about immigration, and the fiscal effects of it, are, there’s an equal amount of misunderstanding of just how the “Poor Northerners” feel about the wealth division in this country and how they are treated politically. They feel abandoned and forgotten about or worse still persecuted. Brexit happened and was entirely predictable because of the lack of understanding of just how bad a lot of people in this country feel about their prospects. Immigrants were / are just a convenient scapegoat to a far bigger problem.

  • 19 dearieme October 5, 2018, 3:34 pm

    Dearieme spelling cock-up alert: “his a good read” for heaven’s sake!

  • 20 Lloyd October 5, 2018, 4:10 pm

    If you have an influx of people to an area more than willing to work for the minimum wage then local employers are less likely to increase wage rates. Conversely, if employers can’t fill vacancies whilst offering the minimum wage then they are more likely to increase wage rates. Why is this so contentious?

  • 21 Ste October 5, 2018, 4:15 pm

    Thanks @TI for the links, interesting as always. Apologies if that’s been mentioned before and as an addition to Products and Services, freetrade have launched their commission-free platform and it looks like they plan to offer an ISA for a flat fee of 36/year: https://freetrade.io/pricing/
    Their ETF selection isn’t massive but probably has all you need to build a low-cost portfolio: https://intercom.help/freetrade/what-s-available-to-invest-in-with-freetrade/what-stocks-and-exchanges-are-available-on-the-app

    Currently using revolut for currency exchange and based on my experience there I would personally probably not entrust significant proportions of my portfolio to a fairly new fintech app (support and app design are two concerns I would have), but it will be interesting to see feedback from early users.

  • 22 hosmpson October 5, 2018, 5:27 pm

    Conversely, if employers can’t fill vacancies whilst offering the minimum wage then they are more likely to automate. Robots don’t have to pay income tax and ‘ee and NI; ‘er NI doesn’t apply to them, either. They can work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, don’t call in sick, don’t need loo breaks, won’t unionize, don’t require HR services, workplace health & safety… And they’re getting cheaper every year.

  • 23 The Investor October 5, 2018, 5:54 pm

    @Lloyd — Because it isn’t what happens, in aggregate, even if it is what happens in localized situations.

  • 24 The English Investor October 5, 2018, 6:24 pm

    We might all be missing the point here. Yes, the statistics point out that British people at the lower end of the wage spectrum suffered. There is also evidence that highly qualified EU people aged in their 20s and 30s working in legal and financial services in London paid more in taxes than their British counterparts.

    Let’s stop thinking “he stole my job, he should leave.” If an employer bothered to hire an EU citizen, it wasn’t for the fun of it. This is not a zero-sum game.

    The tragedy is that employers and the government have not invested the time and money to train/retrain people with limited skills. Yes, not everyone is meant to become a software engineer but there are a lot of jobs from accounting to marketing that could probably use more people. Continuing education is hard, costly and time-consume. But that’s how you avoid leaving people behind imo.

  • 25 Hariseldon October 5, 2018, 7:20 pm

    The Brexit debate like the immigration debate is very divisive, people tend to take a view and stick to it.

    People tend to divide between somewhere and anywhere, the ‘poor northerner’ who does not want to leave his neighbourhood is a “somewhere” others look around and get out for opportunities, they are the anywhere’s.

    You can see this fundamental difference between the Brexiteer and the Remainer, no amount of argument will convince people and some sort of compromise is likely but it is probably the only solution, except no one will be happy and years later I expect it will be realised we should have done one or the other but I can’t see either side allowing the other to “win”

  • 26 Not Political October 5, 2018, 8:22 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading your work for some time, and always look forward to your Friday column in particular.

    But I’m bored of your Brexit drone to the extent that it has overtaken my pleasure in the rest of your well considered and thoughtful content, and I will sadly have to delete my bookmark to your page.

  • 27 E&G October 5, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Those poor northerners should just get on their bikes eh…

    I have a bit of sympathy with that view – two or three generations ago no-one would have thought twice about going away from home to earn a wage doing a menial job, if that was your only option. But 1) I think we should want more for our compatriots than that and 2) I’d much rather our politicians (and commentators) were interested in spreading the wealth that attracts people to come here and work hard throughout Britain, rather than criticise those feckless folk in the north while they benefit from of generations of public policy which has brought abundant prosperity to the south.

    If you’re in your 40s or over and were born anywhere south of Manchester (so most of the readership here, I’d think) then you’d need to be daft not to have made a financial success of life. About as daft as any Spanish or Italian youngster coming here to do 50 hour weeks on minimum wage just to cover the cost of life in a London flatshare.

  • 28 Alex October 5, 2018, 9:29 pm

    Hi Monevator,

    All though immigration is why people voted out on Europe, in reality Brexit is about standards; lowering them: lowering food safety standards, lowering safety at work standards, lowering environment and pollution standards.

    It’s about being able to sell chlorinated chicken and hormone boosted beef and competing with Asian countries lowering salaries and working conditions.

    Thanks for your work.

  • 29 Matt October 5, 2018, 10:47 pm

    Those terrible Brexiters at the Guardian were reporting the awful news that a fall in EU immigration was forcing employers to offer increased wages:

    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/13/companies-brexit-supply-shock-fewer-eu-citizens-arrive-uk

  • 30 Gordon October 5, 2018, 10:52 pm

    I work for one of the *big* UK construction companies. I went to a commercial course last week where the risks of Brexit were discussed. One of the big risks is that the cost of labour will increase.

    So on one hand the media continually tells me immigration has no real impact on wage levels and on the other hand my employer says it does. Who do I believe? Or maybe I should use the evidence of my own eyes? I’ve seen EU migrants undercut British workers on construction sites….

    The academic evidence that says immigration is a net benefit to the UK is best described as biased. The full costs of immigration are ignored. The costs of congestion/ wage suppression/ extra prison places etc are ignored. Immigration makes the country a poorer less pleasant place to live. How can educated people believe that all those immigrants doing low paid jobs are a financial boon to the UK? Only something like the top 20% of taxpayers are net contributors. The migrants I come across are nowhere close to being net contributors…. No matter how many biased reports I read I will still not believe immigration makes us richer.

    Trump, continually talks about “fake news”. He’s absolutedly right, the media tell us a complete pack of lies regarding immigration. Once you recognise the lies it’s very hard to take anything the BBC says seriously.

  • 31 MarkT October 5, 2018, 10:53 pm

    The fact that hardly anyone has changed their mind over brexit suggests that neither side has a compelling argument. All we are left with is opinion and the arrogance that what I consider important should trump what you consider important.

  • 32 Andy October 6, 2018, 3:19 am

    Most people vote for selfish reasons then try and justify it afterwards with any kind of rationale they can come up with. The cognitive bias on both sides is strong here.

  • 33 L October 6, 2018, 9:06 am

    @Vanguardfan

    As well as London, you seem to have missed that small blob of land North of the border where 5+ million of us decided (on average) that we really didn’t fancy Brexit!

  • 34 L October 6, 2018, 9:11 am

    *Edit: not saying 5+ million voted against Brexit, that was a confusing post, just pointing out that places other than England think about such things 🙂

  • 35 Vanguardfan October 6, 2018, 9:15 am

    @L I think you’ll find I mentioned Scotland, and Northern Ireland, in my post….
    One of the (other) things I find very depressing about the Brexit discussions is the total absence in the English media of any voice from the remain voters Northern Ireland. Which given the importance of the issue, and the reams and reams of column inches from English people about how we should deal with the border, is pretty telling.

  • 36 2021er October 6, 2018, 9:32 am

    I’ve enjoyed reading your work for some time, and always look forward to your Friday column in particular.

    But I’m especially delighted to read your Brexit piece to the extent that it has added to my pleasure in the rest of your well considered and thoughtful content, and I will happily have to create a bookmark to your page.

  • 37 Jim October 6, 2018, 9:32 am

    ‘I’m sorry about your sister, but anecdote isn’t evidence.’

    Half this article is anecdotal evidence about 19 year old Spaniards missing buses. I’m 100% anti Brexit but even I found that section to be ludicrous.

  • 38 L October 6, 2018, 10:00 am

    @Vanguardfan – cheerfully correct, please accept my apologies! 🙂

  • 39 L October 6, 2018, 10:01 am

    *Corrected!

  • 40 FI Warrior October 6, 2018, 10:01 am

    As someone just pointed out, the supreme irony here that most miss, is that we are living in a period of unprecedented, technologically-driven change, where many major industries are being disrupted irreversibly and so lifestyles too will never be the same. (similar to the shift from rural to urban living after the mass mechanisation of agriculture, only much faster and therefore more socially devastating) If any people have their wages driven down by immigrants, it’s because they’re low or non skilled and mostly these are the jobs being wiped out anyway. Objectively, this is a good thing, as a civilised country shouldn’t want it’s workforce employed in backbreaking, often dangerous, repetitive work (that actually shortens life expectancy, leaving aside quality of that life); who today would choose to be a miner?

    Scapegoating immigrants is a lethal distraction from the real danger, the elephant in the room, the fact that a serious % of the population is unemployable or soon to be because those jobs first eroded by off-shoring to poor countries, (immigrants back where they ‘should be’ but still ‘taking jobs’) then by automation/AI/machinery right here. An intelligent society would react by reducing inequality to avoid civil unrest, while working out how to keep these newly available people gainfully occupied. Perhaps detoxifying the environment to the point of ecological sustainability using UBI, so we can breathe the air, eat food and drink water, move around and live in our homes without getting sick. There will be many good answers; we should at least think about them and certainly try the commonsense ones, instead of fighting each other to constant stalemate instead, which all but guarantees we’ll all be worse off.

    The immigrant ‘problem’ is yesterday’s issue, they will mostly leave as the jobs evaporate anyway and since inequality is increasing and the economy sliding, quality of life for most too will deteriorate, so more will leave, taking their skills. (already happening due to this and hostility alone) A lot of companies can’t or wont train their own people, figuring it’s faster or cheaper to import staff who already have those skills as well as experience with them. (no different to rich football clubs) These jobs will not be ‘taken back’ by locals because there were never enough qualified to carry them out, those companies will simply off-shore the work, close down or move to another country.

  • 41 ermine October 6, 2018, 10:59 am

    > I’m sorry about your sister, but anecdote isn’t evidence.

    But nor is TEA’s example. The reason anecdote isn’t evidence is that one shouldn’t infer the general from the particular. The tails of the distribution aren’t representative of the lump in the middle.

    Equally, however, the thing we are missing from the debate is that the economy does not equal the lived experience. For example, the UK economy is better off for immigration, because more productive stuff happens within it. But per capita productivity has been stagnating – yes, the overall pie got larger, but roughly in proportion to the number of pie-eaters.

    That is not a win for many of the pie-eaters, and we really need to split off “immigration is good for the economy” from “immigration is good for the lived experience of most Britons”. A smaller economy with fewer people might work just as well for the people in that economy. Yes, there’s a wider question about the sum total of human happiness, but the voters are a small subset of total humanity.

    Most Britons aren’t on incomes that puts them among readers of personal finance blogs. The Guardian article saying that bleating employers are having to increase pay at the bottom end in some industries do indicate that immigration was good for the economy but not for a section of the population. Oxford University had a report on immigration and pay – one of their conclusions was

    UK research suggests that immigration has a small impact on average wages of existing workers but more significant effects along the wage distribution: low-wage workers lose while medium and high-paid workers gain.

    I venture that the readership here is drawn from the medium and high-paid workers end of the spectrum.

  • 42 Sw7 October 6, 2018, 11:02 am

    “but probably because immigrants create demand”

    Which adds to GDP. Not necessarily GDP per capita however which is a reasonable measure of quality of life.

    Regardless, are immigrants working for low end wages, flat sharing and catching public transport really adding that much to demand? Does that demand offset the costs of lower wages due to more supply of labour?

    They are likely net consumers of society in terms of raw costs like most low wage earners – how much tax do these low earning immigrants pay? Likely little/nothing.

    How do they contribute to the public services they consume? Particularly all the additional infrastructure required due to a growing population….mostly caused by immigration. Public transport is subsidised – how are they contributing either to operating or capital costs?

    What about in 30 years when a lot of these low skilled immigrants are retired and eligible for part/all state pension? Do we think their NI contributions working low wage jobs will cover the cost to the taxpayer?

    Of course every society/economy will have low wage jobs, often vital ones, however econonically they do not fully cover the direct and indirect costs of public goods – therefore why should we allow low skilled/low wage labour into this country? Do we really have a shortage of people in the UK to do low skilled jobs? I see lots of complaints about zero hour contracts and how most would wish for more work – so I can’t see how we have a supply problem here. Less labour supply will also naturally restore the balance of capital/labour so wages at the low end will increase in real terms – not a bad thing.

    Additionally, with less population growth the cost of housing – all things equal – should also decline. Effectively another increase in real term wages, and as housing is a large part of low earners cost of living it’ll benefit them most.

    Skills based immigration is the way forward, taking the best talent from around the world. That way, those highly skilled and highly paid EU immigrants will easily be able to work and contribute to the UK. They are net contributors.

    Low skilled immigration is a net cost, economically the country is poorer because of it

  • 43 The Investor October 6, 2018, 11:44 am

    Fair cop on hoisting me by more own petard re: anecdote. 🙂

    Good comments in the main on both sides — cheers!

  • 44 Green as grass October 6, 2018, 12:00 pm

    Quote The Investor:
    “At least some of them aren’t the brightest tools on the box. But you should know better. ”

    Please stop with the dumb brexiteer stereotype you remainers enjoy so much. It makes you look very, very ugly indeed, as well as demonstrating a lack of self-awareness of a quite epic scale.

  • 45 PeteKicks October 6, 2018, 12:11 pm

    So all Poor Northerner has to do is get himself on the train to London (that’ll be £160 please sir and um, don’t expect a seat), pay for some London accommodation (costs are already mounting up aren’t they?) and he’ll be all set. But when he arrives he discovers he will be competing for jobs with Spanish and Italian teenagers willing to work long hours under bad bosses for minimum wage. This is supposed to represent a good opportunity for Mr Northerner? Maybe for someone who comes from a country with a significantly lower cost of living, it is. But for Poor, who has an expensive mortgage and bills to pay in this country, paying through the nose in additional transport and accommodation costs just to earn minimum wage in London isn’t going to work. Give him the same opportunity the immigrants have, say the chance to earn four or five times as much as he can at home, and I’m sure he’d jump at it.

    There seems to be double standards at play here…You’re putting immigrants on a pedestal for taking what to them are good opportunities to earn useful amounts of money. There’s even a troubling whiff of condescension in the way in which you praise immigrants for being capable of doing ordinary things like arranging to have some bills put in their name and setting up bank accounts. It’s being done in a foreign language yes, but one in which most young Europeans are pretty good having been learning it seriously since primary school or even before. Meanwhile Poor Northerner’s concerns are swiftly disregarded with reference to high level stats, as if his “localised” problem of struggling to support his family doesn’t matter because somewhere else a business is making more profit on the back of having a few more immigrants as customers.

    I know the middle ground in the immigration debate is rarely ventured upon, but it’s probably where the truth lies. On aggregate, it’s probably true that the impact has been neutral. But neutral doesn’t mean everybody is fine. It just means that there are as many losers as there winners. Do we want to live in a society where we ignore the concerns of half the population just because the other half is ok?

  • 46 Vanguardfan October 6, 2018, 12:23 pm

    @ermine I agree with your comment that immigration can be a net good for the economy and still be a net disbenefit for individuals within the economy – in other words, both sides of this debate are correct. And in a nutshell this is the dilemma of globalisation. In aggregate, it has benefitted living standards (in the short term anyway, let’s set aside climate change for now, which has the potential to make all debates moot) but there are clearly losers, and there is a big problem of distribution.
    I’m agnostic about the solution – ie I’m not convinced that the losers will benefit from restricted immigration, but I like to hope that there may be some positives in terms of a) upward pressure on wages and b) pressure on employers to actually train local people rather than just take the trained workforce from some other country.

    Taking the bigger picture, it is clear to me that humans are an adaptable and essentially migratory species. We go where we need to, and those that don’t, will not survive. That isn’t going to change, irrespective of any nation state’s policies. There are much bigger forces driving migration (back to climate change again, but also resource based wars and possibly AI). So in the main, I think resisting immigration is probably futile (which is why so much immigration policy is hypocritical and why there will always be illegals).

  • 47 Hospitaller October 6, 2018, 3:18 pm

    I do believe it is true that Brexit is a case of shooting the wrong fox. I think we now all realise that Brexit will not much reduce the number of EU people coming here for jobs, if at all; there are too many sectors which heavily rely on them (which usually means we all rely on them). The only way those numbers will seriously drop is if the economy tanks, in which case we will have more important problems to worry about.

    So what was Brexit for? So that we can exercise sovereignty? I doubt that any nation can claim to be truly sovereign these days. The world has become genuinely interlinked and national governments less and less meaningfully in control. If the Leave voter meant the more limited sense that only British MPs pass British laws, well I do recommend taking a hard look at the present inhabitants of Westminster and asking whether that is a good idea.

    The last meaning I can think of for Brexit is trade. This has always puzzled me as a motive since any country’s most profitable trade tends to be with those geographically closest ie in our case Europe. Here, logic and politics part company – I sense that when the hard-core Brexiteer politicians complain about the need for wider trade, they mean America. Well, if anyone thinks we as a country would be a beneficiary of a US trade agreement, think again. For all I know big business lobbyists may be promising individual politicians, who canvass for an open door for the USA, wealth beyond imagination. But as regards the whole country, becoming the umpteenth state of America would surely be disastrous. The irony in Brexit is that taking back control could end up meaning giving up any control at all.

  • 48 Gordon October 6, 2018, 4:50 pm

    In the great Brexit debate it’s only the one side that have been proved wrong so far. Before the referendum we were repeatedly assured that a Brexit result would create instant turmoil with war/ pestilence/ house price drops/ dragons attacking airliners etc. We’ve not had any turmoil….

    So being impartial as I can, it’s Bremainers that have been mistaken about the immediate turmoil a Brexit vote would result in. It’s also the Bremainers that constantly tell us that millions of migrants don’t depress wages….

    It seems to be Brexiters that have the better grip on reality….

    I spoke to my hairdresser last year. He was complaining about the number of Turkish immigrants starting barber shops and undercutting British barbers. Does anyone really think that all those new Turkish barbers aren’t reducing wages for British barbers?

    Which other good or service does not suffer a price drop due to vastly increased supply?

  • 49 SurreyBoy October 6, 2018, 6:29 pm

    After 13 years my window cleaner recently increased his price. I asked why it had taken so long and he said competition from migrants. My hair cut costs the same as it did 5 years ago and most barbers in our local town are now staffed by eastern European migrants. To me it’s just common sense that an influx of cheap labour keeps wages and often prices down.

    Anecdotally (prompt angry chastisement…..) if you chat with the staff in my barber’s they all live miles away in relatively grim areas where I wouldn’t want to live. They say it’s better living there than where they come from around eastern Europe. I would never criticize these guys for having the bravery to emigrate for a better life. I also admire their work ethic – they travel 90 minutes each way on a bus to cut hair at probably minimum wage.

    But I expect id feel very differently if I competed with them for work so I could feed my family. If that was my life, my concerns would be more about buying shoes for my kids than safe withdrawal rates.

    I imagine watching a well off politician on the telly saying that Brexit will lower my living standards probably wouldn’t cut much ice.

  • 50 2021er October 6, 2018, 9:50 pm

    Post Brexit the UK will be the first nation on earth to ever deliberately try to negotiate worse trade conditions with its customer countries than it had previously through its membership of the EU. For the USA, the UK’s 2nd largest export destination, we currently trade with the support of dozens and dozens of EU cooperation and facilitation agreements that make trade far easier.