Friends don't let friends stay in something as stupid as the EU - Credit, public domain

This is a possibly unkind reading of this complaint but it’s also a true one. That Brexit, and any subsequent limitations upon labour mobility, will mean that British women won’t be able to have servants. It’s not entirely obvious that this is a matter of sufficient importance to call the whole thing off really. Just as the effects of those cotton mills were indeed to make female labour more valuable and so less likely to be employed blacking stoves. As well as, you know, enabling the entire world to have a change of underwear.

But this is roughly the argument being made:

Women will have to give up work to look after their ageing parents and grandparents unless EU care workers are given priority after Brexit, ministers have warned.

The Department of Health said that in a “worst case scenario” if EU migrants are barred from coming to the UK there will be a shortfall of 6,000 doctors, 12,000 nurses and 28,000 care staff within five years.

In a 37-page dossier it said that there will be a “wider risk to labour market participation” because growing numbers of people, “especially women”, will have to give up their jobs to provide “informal care” for loved ones.

It’s not entirely obvious that going out to work to pay for the labour to care for loved ones is any better than not going out to work and caring for loved ones. Clearly, who does which is a matter for the individuals concerned and no one else. And in economic terms if the two women working produces higher living standards then that’s the solution to be economically preferred. But if the one is working as a child minder so that the other can be paid to look after granny, well, we’ve not really got any further than the one looking after her own child, the other granny.

It depends rather upon that division and specialisation of labour, whether when we’ve done that we’re getting more care done out of the same amount of labour.

But leave all of that drear efficiency stuff aside. The complaint here really is about whether the right sort of women will still be able to afford servants. The type who will come and wash bedridden granny while the chatelaine does important things like organise the diversity of sex education at the local primary. For look again at what the report itself is insisting – if labour mobility halts after Brexit then women will have to look after their own loved ones rather than farm it out to some Romanian girl.

But then the Telegraph has spent the last century and a half worrying about the servant problem, hasn’t it?

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4 COMMENTS

  1. As with almost all wto-exit scare stories these days the claimed problem is one where the solution is entirely under UK control, in this case – if blocking certain types of workers would be an issue, don’t do it. Almost as if remainers don’t trust the UK electorate.

  2. The Telegraph cherry-picks a government “worst case scenario” and reports it in the indicative mood as a fact! In fact, even this scenario assumes that inputs shift and all Britons refuse to adapt. This claptrap is a continuation of George W. Bush scolding us that migrants “do the jobs [citizens] won’t do.” In fact, shut off the spigot and wages will change. It may indeed cost more to hire a British nanny than one with a foreign accent. On the margin, a few women may find it more economical to stay home and do the jobs themselves. Those with sufficiently valuable jobs will stay in them and pay the increased cost — perhaps out of the windfall they will receive when Britain stops having to perform EU-mandated makework!

  3. ‘… there will be a shortfall of 6,000 doctors, 12,000 nurses and 28,000 care staff within five years.’

    Does that mean 46 000 doctors, nurses and care staff will be dead in five years? What will be killing them, Post-Brexit Syndrome?

    I think it is about time somebody showed those producing this drivel a map of the World, they believe there are no Countries or people beyond the borders of the EU – Here be dragons!