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How media is distorting the facts about birth rates and immigration

by Siân Ruddick

New population statistics caused quite a stir in the press recently.

The data, released by the Office of National Statistics, shows that the birth rate in Britain has risen over the past year, taking the population over 61 million.

That’s not so shocking, you might think. But the right wing press had a field day as it emerged that 24 percent of the babies born in 2008 were born to “foreign” mothers – that is, mothers of a nationality other than British.

The papers that day were seemingly competing to see who could be the most offensive. “Scroungers soaking up out services”, screamed the Daily Express. “Immigrant baby boom”, cried the Mail.

But the press seemed to be competing on inaccuracy as well.

To take one example, the Express claimed the babies were born to mothers “overwhelmingly from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Poland”.

This is not true. If all of the mothers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and the “rest of Europe” category (there are no country by country breakdown for nations inside the European Union) were added together, they would make up only 10 percent.

While the statistics have been used to claim that immigrants are “taking over Britain”, the truth is quite the opposite.

Immigration levels are not rising significantly – and Britain’s economy and services rely on the vital work of migrants.

The poverty and discrimination immigrants face blights the lives of people who make such an important contribution.

Opportunity

There is no equality of opportunity in Gordon Brown’s Britain – if you are born poor the chances are that you will have lower levels of education, poor health, fewer job opportunities and extended periods of poverty.

Regardless of the nationality of their mother or father, children born in the country are British and this is their home.

The right wing are trying to use the rise in births to push arguments about “out of control” immigration.

This does nothing but expose them as the racists they are.

Statistics can only give us a narrow glimpse of what life is like in Britain and the make up of our communities.

While the numbers can a useful tool to help us understand the society we live in, they must be seen through a rounded, anti-racist analysis.


Article information

Features
Tue 8 Sep 2009, 19:38 BST
Issue No. 2168
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