Damian Green: venal or just poorly educated?

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Damian Green

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The UK’s immigration minister, Damian Green, made this claim:

“Do immigrants displace British workers in the labour market? The MAC [Migration Advisory Committee – official advisors to the UK government on immigration] research showed that in certain circumstances there can be displacement of British-born workers by non-EEA [European Economic Area] migrants, up to a level of 23 displaced for every 100 additional working age non-EEA migrants… This analysis gives us the basis for a more intelligent debate.  It supports a more selective approach to non-EU migration. The old assumption was that as immigration adds to GDP—national output—it is economically a good thing, and that therefore logically the more immigration the better, whatever the social consequences.”

The problem for Green is that the MAC research did not show what he claimed at all. Instead it showed that (I am quoting this excellent blog here) that for every 100 working-age non-EU immigrants who arrived in a particular UK region in a particular year, 23 fewer UK natives were employed in that region in that year.

Green appears to have made one of those classic post hoc ergo propter hoc mistakes of those with a poor grasp of maths or statistics – the fact that one event follows another does not mean they are actually causally linked. As the MAC professionals state:

“Our findings should therefore be considered as estimating the association between migration and the native employment rate rather than the impact of migration on the native employment rate”

Perhaps the Daily Telegraph ought to highlight Green’s mistake in their ongoing and well-timed campaign on numeracy – Make Britain Count – as Green’s mistake is all too common.

Of course, the Telegraph would first have to assure themselves that the former business news editor of the Times and Channel 4 News was so innumerate that he had indeed made a mistake.