Identify and discuss one or more policy implications of immigration today
The issue of immigration invariably raises protracted and vehement debates in both the political and public realms. Moreover, given the connotations of immigration, significant attention is now paid to the issue within the social policy discipline (Jones, 2003). Indeed, immigration has a variety of different effects on social and public policy prescriptions. As such, the purpose of this work is to assess one specific area of implication for policy. The areas which will form the focus of discussion is general social policy and the impact European based immigration has on national employment strategies and further European integration. In order to offer effective and comprehensive assessments of these areas it is necessary to look beyond the polemical debates which often surround immigration. However, although the impact of immigration is often exaggerated by right wing commentators for the purposes of ideological gain, this does not detract from the fact that immigration raises a number of serious concerns. Indeed, the discussion which follows below personifies a portion of such concerns.
The most recent enlargement of the European Union consisted of the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. This increased the overall national membership of the Union to 27 member states (Burrell, 2009). Prior to this, in April 2004 European Parliament and Council Directive 2004/38/EC ushered in a new immigration system within the entire Union. The directive thus allowed for citizens of member states to travel and work freely within any member state (Europa, 2009). One direct consequence of this has meant that immigration from relatively new member states to the more affluent and economically advanced western members has increased substantially. Since 2004 Britain has been one of the leading countries of destination for migrant European workers from new member states. In some quarters, the preference of Britain for migrant European workers has been suggested to be the limited restrictions of British immigration policy compared to other leading member states such as France (BBC News, 2005). However, the fact remains that there has been significant immigration into Britain from newly joined European states. Indeed, although the figures in the post recession period have reduced somewhat, the 2010 figure nonetheless totalled 68,000 applications, ensuring Britain remains a leading destination for European Union immigration (BBC News, 2010).
The consequences of this new influx of migrant workers on the British labour market have been considerable (Daguerre, 2007). Above all, the influx has meant that there has been a natural strain placed on ensuring high levels of employment in the British economy, particularly since the onset and impact of recession. Moreover, in terms of social policy prescriptions in Britain, there are obvious issues of concern relating to decreased opportunities in the labour market and state directed welfare provision. New migrants inevitably mean increased pressure is placed on public service provision, primarily undertaken under the auspices of the welfare state (Jones, 2003). Given that such service provision is about to undergo significant pressure as a result of the need to reduce public sector spending, the connotations and effects of immigration in this regard are quite clear. Moreover, a higher population means increased property prices, which disadvantages many native-born British people who find an average home costs very many times their basic salary.
In addition, the process of European immigration and the reduction of boarder controls have raised a number of other social policy concerns which directly affect the nature of the Union and its responsibilities. The gradual yet persistent transference of economic sovereignty from member states to the Union has been a consistent feature of the integration process for many decades. In addition, in recent years such integration has been witnessed in other policy areas such as foreign relations. However, of greater relevance to the present discussion is the degree to which immigration on a Union wide level has led to a general progression which has witnessed the emergence of a European social policy (Falkner, 2007). Naturally, given that a clear and defined Union social policy is now an important process at the European level, there are obvious connotations for British sovereignty. Indeed, increased immigration into Britain has meant that the social policy agenda is to a certain degree no longer set by Westminster (Jones, 20030.
Moreover, the protracted debates regarding immigration and social policy direction in Europe have significant consequences for Britain and other leading European member states. For example, one debate currently taking place is whether “market fundamentalism” is the most appropriate method of ensuring effective Union wide social policy (Albers & Haseler, 2006; p. 2). Market fundamentalism denotes the outlook which suggests that free market lassez faire economics is the most beneficial method of ensuring equality in society. It has been suggested on the basis of such thinking that there could emerge a “race to the bottom” where companies are able to exploit migrant workers in the domestic market and also move production to new member states were wages and employment laws are less stringent (Albers & Haseler, 2006; p. 4). As such, a direct consequence of increased immigration has been that the nature and functions of national labour markets have been systematically altered on the basis of a European Union directed economic and social policy. Given that the Union is ultimately responsible for ensuring that member states meet the requirements of European social policy law with regards to migrant workers, there has been a natural progression which has seen increasing European involvement in the domestic social policy of member states. As such, one overriding consequence of immigration on the European level has been that further political integration has been essential.
Therefore, it is possible to see that immigration serves to impact on policy prescriptions in a number of different ways. Increased immigration into Britain from new Eastern European member states has meant that the internal British labour market has been affected to a considerable degree. In addition, such immigration has obvious connotations for British welfare provision. However, perhaps the most significant impact of immigration in recent years has been the increasing need to carry out political integration at the European level in order to meet the social policy challenges which have arisen as a result. This final issue therefore personifies the wide-ranging and diverse impact immigration has on the political realm. Indeed, given that such progressions show no sign of altering, it is likely that this impact will continue to occur and develop for some to come.
Albers, D & Haseler, S (2006) Social Europe: a continents answer to market fundamentalism. London: Henning Meyer.
BBC News (2005) ‘UK is top spot for EU migration’, BBC News [online], date accessed, 20/03/2010, available at; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4601055.stm.
BBC News (2010) ‘UK immigration of Eastern and Central Europe falls’, BBC News [online], date accessed, 20/03/2010, available at; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8536194.stm.
Burrell, K (2009) Polish migration to the UK in the ‘new’ European Union: after 2004. London: Ashgate Publishing.
Daguerre, A (2007) Active Labour Market Policies and Welfare Reform: Europe and US in comparative perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Europa (2009) ‘Right of citizens and their families’ members to move and reside freely with the territory of the Member States’, Europa: summaries of EU legislation [online], date accessed, 20/03/2010, available at; http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33152_en.htm.
Falkner, G (2007) ‘The EU’s Social Dimension’ in, Cini, M, European Union Politics; pp. 271-285.
Jones, C (2003) Immigration and Social Policy in Britain. London: Routledge.