Why Britain (and Europe) depends on migrants

In other words it appears that, despite mass unemployment, we have to import labour in order that this kind of work be done. And the problem, or perhaps I should say peculiarity, does not exist only in France but in many other countries. In Ireland, for example, an old lady of my acquaintance needed 24-hour attendance and this was provided by a Filipina, even at a time when there was 15 per cent unemployment in Ireland.

Economic determinists will no doubt attribute the paradox to our system of social security and unemployment benefits. The economic difference between doing this type of work and not working at all is simply not great enough to entice any native to do it. But I do not think that this can be the explanation, or at any rate the whole explanation. The fact again is that the women are paid above the minimum wage and, being legal migrants, are entitled to the same benefits as those who allegedly will not do the work for lack of incentive to do it. I am not sure, either, that I would much like to be looked after by someone who did the work only because there was no alternative for her.

The difference, then, is a psychological, cultural or even religious one. The change in the title of the senior nurse in a hospital ward from sister to ward manager is indicative of a change in sensibility, from a residually religious notion of serving others to a purely technocratic one. In the popular imagination, the distinction between service to others and servitude to others has been more or less eliminated.