When it comes to counting, Britain is number one

When it comes to counting, Britain is number one
When it comes to counting, Britain is number one

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The UK and France are Europe’s closest relations. They’ve economies of comparable configurations and dimensions. They’ve colonial pasts of an identical hue and geographic unfold, although the British empire was the bigger. Given this, anybody eager about enhancing the lot of individuals in a single nation would do nicely to review the successes and errors within the different.

British policymakers have a lot to study from France, not least its embrace of nuclear energy, its first-class healthcare system and its central function within the EU. Given the UK’s largest social and financial issues, such comparisons are sometimes a supply of actual and deserved embarrassment. Certainly, one motive why the British political class leapt upon the latest unrest in France is so they may discuss what generally appears like a vanishingly small variety of areas wherein the French have one thing to study from the British.

The UK’s integration mannequin and method to race relations does carry out higher than the French one. A few of that could be about the advantages of a multicultural mannequin over a extra coercive type of secularism or variations within the labour market. However maybe probably the most underrated British energy is solely our capacity to depend. In a rustic typically outlined by poor administration and insufficient capital funding, the Workplace for Nationwide Statistics actually is world-leading. This extremely efficient organisation produces dependable and persistently good knowledge with comparatively few limitations on what it could ask about. 

Consequently, British policymakers merely know much more in regards to the form of their nation and its social and cultural issues. The profit goes far past race relations. It helped the UK get pleasure from a speedy rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and a sooner finish to lockdown. It additionally implies that we will say, with excessive certainty, that the kids of immigrants within the UK are more likely to be in work than their parents, aside from black Caribbean and Indian males. Certainly, some teams, like second technology Bangladeshi males and second technology black African girls, have decrease unemployment charges than white British women and men respectively.

In France, which like Germany, Japan and a bunch of different OECD nations doesn’t acquire knowledge about race and ethnicity, far more of what we all know relies on extrapolation. The headlines should not good for this mannequin: second-generation immigrants in France have a 19 per cent lower standard of living than those not descended from recent immigrants. These compare unfavourably to the overall British statistics, which show a relatively marginal difference between the native inhabitants and the foreign-born.

After all, outcomes amongst immigrants are additionally a flawed measure with which to think about a rustic’s minority inhabitants given each the UK and France have well-established non-immigrant minority populations. However we’re compelled to take action partially as a result of the French state collects no knowledge on minorities.

Some defenders argue that for France, the issue isn’t the coverage, it’s the migrants. Put bluntly, they are saying, the problem is that many are from Africa and plenty of are Muslims. However the kind of folks coming to each international locations since 1945 is just not that totally different: a variety of migrants from former colonial possessions, working in all types of industries. Take a look at how African migrants to the UK carry out higher than white Britons throughout a variety of measures or the sturdy educational performances of Britons from the Indian subcontinent. It’s doable, I suppose, that Algerian Muslims are simply more durable to combine than Bangladeshi ones or west Africans from the Gold Coast extra capable of thrive overseas than west Africans from the Côte d’Ivoire. But it surely doesn’t appear all that probably.

It appears extra probably that UK policymakers are higher ready to reply to issues as a result of they’ve higher knowledge. For instance, the varsity census determines how a lot central authorities funding colleges receive per pupil who speaks English as a second or third language. If you don’t have knowledge, coverage debates inevitably develop into pushed by anecdote and supposition, as do the levers that governments attain for. It’s thus not shocking that the hole between outcomes in France and the UK is important: if something it’s extra shocking that it’s not bigger nonetheless.

Narayana Murthy, the Indian billionaire, is keen on the saying that “in God we belief, however everybody else must deliver knowledge to the desk”. It’s a phrase his son-in-law has reached for too. Because it occurs, this son-in-law, the prime minister Rishi Sunak, is himself good anecdotal proof of the success of the British mannequin. However the true secret lies in the truth that the UK doesn’t want to achieve for anecdote to point out its method to integration is working.

stephen.bush@ft.com

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