Congratulations to Lily from the Tiffin Girls’ School who has won the Changing Perceptions Challenge, created by Ben Brindle – one of our #DataImpactFellows – with support from our impact team. Here is Lily’s winning entry.
Comparing media and public attitudes to research
In recent years, many media articles have tended to present the economic impacts of immigration as negative, harmful and as damaging to our economy. As well as this, many articles isolate immigrants and almost portray them as the causes of some economic problems in the UK.
However, if we look at these articles in depth, we can reveal the flaws within these arguments and compare them to actual statistics and data surrounding the impacts of immigration, which suggests that these claims are far from the truth.
One article from Hawkes on The Sun’s ‘Brits Not Fair’ explores the rising cases of unemployment in the UK and states that ‘330 000 posts were taken by foreign-born workers.’ The use of the verb taken almost depicts immigrants in a negative light, as it suggests the blame for unemployment is because of the jobs immigrants are being given.
Rather than discussing how the government is failing to provide more jobs to support the rising population and number of people in need of work, this article seems to scapegoat immigrants as the main cause of the unemployment crisis.
Additionally, the tone of this article is further emphasised through the use of the phrase ‘EU nationals flooding to Britain to cash in on the recovery.’ Again, the writer’s use of the verb ‘flooding’ almost portrays these EU nationals as burdensome, and as if they are causing trouble.
However, if you look at this situation from another perspective, you could say that the increase of EU migrants is a benefit for the UK, as they are bringing an increased workforce, to pay taxes and contribute to the economy, as well as bringing their skills and labour – which certainly isn’t something that should be looked down upon.
Furthermore, Dawar’s article from the Daily Express is headlined with ‘Britons losing out to foreign workers’. Similarly, the language used in this article highly influences the negative portrayal of immigrants in western media as the term ‘losing out’ almost presents British people as in conflict or competition with immigrants for jobs.
It also attempts to cause feelings of anger from British people, as it puts them in the position of feeling as if they’ve ‘lost’.
However, the data this author uses to back up their argument is clearly weak as ‘one in six low skilled jobs are now held by an immigrant.’ Despite this figure, it can be argued that these statistics show how little impact immigrants have on employment, as one out of six is arguably a high number, and perhaps the fact immigrants are able to find employment and contribute to the economy is actually a positive thing for the UK.
As a result of these media articles, there is no surprise that opinion polling has shown that ‘around half of the UK public think immigration is bad for worker’s wages and employment.’
Throughout these articles, the authors tend to blame economic problems, such as employment, on immigrants, as it makes it easier to divert the blame from the UK government, where perhaps the failures actually lie.
Additionally, the language chosen in these articles creates a sense of division between immigrants and UK citizens, and so it encourages the public to think negatively of immigration as a whole.
Despite this, academic research has actually shown that immigration has little impact on wages and unemployment. The well-known argument that immigration ‘takes jobs’ is actually challenged in an article written by Ethan Lewis who suggests that there is an unconscious bias that the number of jobs is in a fixed state.
In other words, this claim is actually false to an extent as the number of job opportunities, in most cases, rises at a higher rate than immigrants occupying jobs, and so you could even say immigrants bring about more job opportunities in the UK.
Additionally, there is actually evidence of the benefits immigrants bring to the UK as in Jonathan Portes’ commentary, he highlights that in 2016, foreign arrivals had a ‘net contribution of £25 billion.’ Without immigration, this money would have not been accumulated and so we can see how immigrants do positively impact the UK economy, but media articles choose to ignore these statistics.
In this way, we can see how the way the media presents the economic impacts of immigrants in the UK as much more harmful than it is in reality, and almost overshadows the benefits immigrants bring to the UK, in aims to potentially push the agenda of immigrants being ‘bad’ for the economy.
Immigration campaign: Social Media
In my campaign, I am choosing to focus on the use of social media as a medium.
Being a teenager of the 21st century, I am living through a time period of the evolution of social media and its emerging importance in daily life. I actually run my own social media pages, with 40,000 followers on Instagram and 260,000 followers on TikTok, and know just how influential social media can be in terms of spreading awareness and communicating ideas.
For this reason, I think creating a social media campaign, on Instagram, to tackle the misconceptions of immigration would be best.
On this platform, I would share frequent posts, exploring the failures of the portrayal of immigration in the media, and try to share posts with real statistics and highlight the benefits of immigration on the UK economy and society – something which the media tends to avoid showing.
My target audience would be young people in the UK, as I think the best way to overcome the negative presentation of immigrants in society is to start with young people, as they are most vulnerable to being exposed to the influence of harmful media surrounding immigration.
Additionally, the younger people of our generation will make up the future of the UK, and so creating a more positive environment and positive attitudes towards immigration, is what i can hope to achieve through this campaign.
Despite me being born and raised in the UK, my family on my mum’s side actually immigrated from Vietnam in the late 1970s. As a result of this, I have heard anecdotes from my family on the struggles of being an immigrant in the UK, and how it was actually difficult, at first, to find a stable and secure job.
Through my campaign, I want to highlight what benefits immigrants bring to the UK, and actually explore the backgrounds of some immigrants, as through all the consumption of negative media on immigrants, it is sometimes easy to overlook immigrants themselves and the struggles they experience.
In this way, I would like to spread awareness on the history of immigration and perhaps create a platform where people can share their own experiences surrounding immigration and their family’s.
An example of this similar method i have seen is the ‘Everyone’s invited’ campaign, where victims of sexual violence shared there experiences on social media. Similarly, we could create a platform where immigrants could share their stories of how they moved to the UK, and their experiences of life since.
Congratulations to Lily on her well-deserved win.