The day the Immigrants left

AnnieM, February 25, 2010

How many of you watched The day the Immigrants left on BBC One last night? It was a poignant experiment, of interest to job seekers everywhere. Regardless of where you are from, and what language your mother tongue is in, immigration is rather a taboo subject on both sides of the coin: for those who have come to Britain in search of a better standard of living and for those already residing here. Competition for jobs is fierce: everyone needs to earn a living to survive.

In a televised response to complaints of some British natives, where some believe that immigrants are ‘stealing’ so-called ‘low-level’ British jobs, The day the Immigrants left asked: if these jobs were vacant, would the native Brits actually take them?

The Experiment

Located in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire where 2,000 of the market town’s local residents are currently unemployed, many of the residents blame their unemployment on the growing immigrant population.

Twelve unemployed British residents from Wisbech were given the opportunity to work for two days in place of migrant workers in a potato packing factory, an Indian restaurant, an asparagus farm and a building site.

Those working at the Indian restaurant would receive on-the-job training whilst those working in the potato packing factory would be required to fill 85 bags per minute during their twelve-hour shift. According to the BBC, factory work is the most common occupation for EU workers, employing approximately 270,180 of registered EU workers between 2004 and 2006.

The outcome

Of the twelve volunteers, one assigned work at the factory texted in sick the night before, three due to work at the Indian Restaurant called in sick and the fourth (and only) volunteer left at the restaurant was found to be sampling the food whilst the permanent staff worked around him.

In summary, nearly half of the volunteers were unable to commit to just two days work. This begs the question, why are some Brits so work shy?  Professor of Sociology, Richard Sennett believes this is due to the British work culture (breadth of career opportunity, financial incentives, promises of promotion etc) rather than just individual attitudes. Yet it’s made Britain into a nation of picky job-seekers. Almost.

In this era of job shortages, more people are willing to take what they can get and work longer hours than ever before. What this documentary taught us apart from highlighting some culture differences in work ethic, is the importance of questioning our own work ethic. Are we putting enough into our jobs once we gain employment? Do we believe ourselves to be hard working, or do we just like to think we are? We all have different experiences in the world of work, but a job is as much as what you put in to it as what you get out of it.