Another statistical report, another chance to twist the findings and stir up some more animosity over migration for the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.
This week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a report called International immigration and the labour market, UK 2016.
It was an analysis of numbers of EU and non-EU workers in various industries as well as those unemployed and economically inactive (retired, sick, etc.).
Nothing particularly astonishing about the findings (which can be viewed here). Migrants make up 11% of the UK labour market (which roughly corresponds with the level of migrants in the country overall); there are more migrants working in some sectors than others; migrants are more likely to be over-qualified for their jobs than UK nationals, and on average they work more hours and earn slightly less.
Overall, no big changes from a similar study done using data from 2011.
Commenting on the figures, ONS statistician Anna Bodey said: ‘Today’s analysis shows the significant impact international migration has on the UK labour market. It is particularly important to the wholesale and retail, hospitality, and public administration and health sectors, which employ around 1.5 million non-UK nationals.‘
Almost not newsworthy at all then, except perhaps as an opportunity to remind people of the importance of migration to keep the economy functioning.
However, the Mail and the Express rarely miss an opportunity to seize on academic or government figures relating to migration and twist them to try and portray migrants in a negative light.
The effort by the Daily Mail this time around was particularly remarkable. It went with the headline ONE IN SEVEN EU NATIONALS OF WORKING AGE IN THE UK IS UNEMPLOYED OR ‘INACTIVE’ – NEARLY EQUIVALENT TO A CITY THE SIZE OF BRISTOL.
Aside from being yet another ridiculously long headline (which the paper specialises in) that doesn’t even focus on the main study findings, it’s a peculiar thing to single out as this figure is LOWER than the UK average as a whole.
15% of working-age EU citizens in the UK are unemployed or inactive (1 in 7) compared to 21% of UK citizens (1 in 5).
So EU nationals are LESS likely to be out of work.
Why, then, would the Mail want to frame its story around unemployment figures of this particular group? Could the paper be trying to encourage its readers to view EU migrants as a burden on the state at a time when the subject of EU migrants in the UK is one of the most politically charged of them all? Even though the figures the paper is basing its report on state the opposite? Would the paper stoop that low?
It’s undoubtedly for biased reporting such as this that the editors at Wikipedia chose to ban the paper as a reference source.
The Express headline was more straightforward although no less hysterical. The paper went with SCANDAL OF OPEN BORDERS: 1 IN 9 WORKERS ARE MIGRANTS.
The scandal presumably being that the actual number of migrant workers in the UK is much lower than readers had been led to believe, given that Ipsos Mori polls have found that people in the UK (wrongly) believe that migrants make up 24% of the population.
The Express went on to blame the whole thing on EU freedom of movement – despite the fact that figures include all of the non-EU workers in the UK too – and the paper then did its usual thing of quoting a few UKIP and Brexit-supporting Conservative politicians outraged at the whole situation.
It’s the same cycle over and over. The tabloids jump at any opportunity to twist the facts and demonise migrants from both inside and outside the EU. Then there will be a horrific racist attack like the one on the asylum seeker in Croydon the other week and they’ll wonder how it could possibly happen.
Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.