“Stealing our jobs”

(This is a post based on my personal experiences and observations. Yes, I’m going to generalise and make some sweeping statements, but I am aware that I can’t apply a blanket rule to everyone of a certain ethnicity. Topics like this always arouse intense feelings; here are my views on immigrant-bashing).

In recessionary times, everyone gets all protectionist and the rednecks come out of the woodwork to shout about immigrants stealing jobs. Stealing jobs from our young unemployed. Stealing jobs from hardworking people just trying to support their families. One Your Views gem in particular really got me riled up. It was rather incoherent. I finally worked out – I think – that this person meant immigrants working at gas stations and supermarkets were stealing jobs from Kiwis and in particular young people and students.

Because of course, immigrants can’t be students working a part time job to support themselves. Of course! All these “useless unskilled” immigrants have decided to make the momentous decision to immigrate to an entirely new country just to work menial jobs to screw over NZers. As many expats know, it’s local work experience that is valued here more than anything.

My mother, an accountant, worked in a factory for a while before landing a part time bookkeeping job. We hear the classic line about Russian doctors and physicists being forced into taxi driving. I don’t think it’s different for accountants, teachers, or any other sort of profession. At dinner not so long ago, my mum told us how important it was for her to acclimatise and learn more about the culture before diving back in. Simple things like going through receipts and working out what were deductible expenses and what weren’t, are a billion times harder when you don’t even know what Tic Tacs are. (I also remember our first Halloween and wondering why all these random people in costumes were turning up at our house. And my first sleepover, where we had boiled eggs at breakfast and I didn’t know how to peel them, so even though I love eggs I didn’t have any to eat).

Migrants don’t have the safety of the full welfare net to fall back onto. They are more likely to take any job they can get, because they HAVE to. I know many people, for whom it’s preferable to sit on the dole rather than work on, for example, an assembly line that requires commuting and pays about the same as the dole. Why would you want to work a job like that? BF”s case worker commented that many of her clients choose to job hunt from home rather than coming into the centre every day. But when she asks for their job lead diary, it’s empty. You can guess what they’re spending their time doing instead. Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many many people who would be grateful for ANY job. But there  are just as many happy to get paid for doing sweet f-all, due to the way the NZ welfare system works. Oh, and not-so-hypothetical people (who irritate me with their sheer stupidity) who don’t believe that their boss won’t fire them when they don’t go to work – just because they DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING TO WORK. (And, of course, get fired.) I am serious. True story. Happened last month.

Here’s a sweeping statement. From what I know and see, migrants are generally very hard workers. It’s the fact that many of them have had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (what a lame expression!),and have certain values and priorities instilled in them. It’s the way I was brought up, to stand on my two feet. They have a strong work ethic, they value education and take it seriously. I don’t even technically live out west as such, yet I am still surrounded by bogans – think Outrageous Fortune, personified – and it’s an entirely new world to me. There really is no Asian equivalent to the concept of a Westie, to my knowledge. It just wouldn’t happen. There are A LOT of things I hate about Chinese culture. But not this one. There ain’t no option to pump gas all your life and spend your free time drinking, smoking, and screwing. That’s something I see on a regular basis, and it frustrates me.

I wonder if people like that would rather I gave my job up to a “real” New Zealander. I’m an NZ citizen. I was brought up here. I have a white boyfriend, I don’t eat tofu or chicken feet, I swear like a true blue westie and eat Watties tomato sauce. Yet when I open my mouth sometimes, people are surprised I don’t have some heavy accent. But you know, I look different and all. Maybe I’m not entitled to my job, by that logic.

Immigrants don’t always get hired because they are willing to work for fifty cents an hour. I’m willing to bet most of them are hired because they work bloody hard, they’re committed and they’re willing to do the hard graft to get ahead. I don’t think it’s a great idea to be bringing in tons of new migrants at the moment, but leave the ones already here alone. Would you rather take their jobs and give them to a “real NZer”, and pay them the dole instead? Yeah, didn’t think so. Job stealers, dole bludgers, they just can’t win.

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