Aurora Magazine

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Time to Rebrand Immigration

Julian Saunders reflects on the UK’s recent general elections.
Updated 08 Jul, 2024 05:21pm

I am making these bleary-eyed notes the morning after the UK’s general election. The Conservatives have been hollowed out by Reform, a party rooted in fear of immigration. Across Europe, the extreme right is on the move for similar reasons.

If you are of the rational sort, this is illogical because demography is destiny. Without large-scale immigration, most of Europe will not have enough workers to maintain healthy economies.

Immigrants are not “taking our jobs.” Quite the opposite, employment levels are high. Immigrants are doing the jobs that the native population can’t or won’t do.

The stats are startling. They tell you that European populations are not replacing themselves, and some have much, much less than the required 2.1 children per woman. Populations are ageing fast. At current rates, Japan and China will have lost 40% of their populations by the end of the century. The only cure for this is immigration, as attempts to incentivise fertility have been largely unsuccessful.

Very few politicians tell this truth for fear of being ejected by voters. But perhaps branding and communications experts can help by changing the cultural climate and the language we use. Let’s substitute the word “talent” for “immigrant,” not as some kind of trick but as a way of revealing the truth.

When I was at Google, it was like working at the United Nations. Talent from around the world was attracted to the UK and fuelled a dynamic industry of digital innovation through thousands of start-ups. Talented and expert carers and medical staff from around the world made my mother’s final years as good as they could be. I could go on.

Britain can be good at this. It was a moment of pride that Rishi Sunak’s elevation to Prime Minister as the son of South Asians passed without much comment. At a personal level, Brits are friendly and tolerant of diversity. Although our political and media culture can be ferociously xenophobic, this culture can shift. For 20 years, our tabloid papers were routinely and thoughtlessly homophobic. Now, you rarely see homophobia in the media.

The great economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “Never underestimate the power of demographic change to alter the culture of a society.” As the population ages, we have no choice but to attract more talent to the UK. People really want to come. And we should celebrate and be grateful for that. The language we use (and don’t use) is a vital tool we can use to change our culture for the better.

Julian Saunders is a strategist, writer and teacher.