Generational Change and Immigration Stories in Enfield

The National Conversation continued its journey across the UK, stopping off at Enfield, outer London, for our fifth stakeholder panel and citizen panel.

In the 1970s, over 50% of the jobs in the local area were in clothes manufacturing, today that is under 6%.[1] The vast majority of jobs in the area are now in the service sector. Outward migration from inner London has contributed to the growing diversity of the local authority; with Council projections suggesting that about 35% of the population identify themselves as white British or Irish, with the rest of Enfield’s population declaring alternative backgrounds.

This diversity was reflected in our Citizen’s panel.  The group largely comprised of individuals, with a family history of migration from outside the UK, with Turkish, South Asian, Lebanese and Greek backgrounds and a mix of both first and second generation migrants.  Although the feeling among the group was positive towards immigration, there were generational differences in opinion.

As in previous panels, participants believed that migrants must make an effort to learn English so that they can communicate effectively and integrate.  Again, too, they felt that in order for the Government to gain their trust when it came to immigration promises, government needed to be open and transparent across all policy areas.

Generational differences emerged when participants with children within the educational system spoke of their frustrations in securing a school place for their child, with questions being raised concerning fairness as to who deserves first preference for school places.  Views were also expressed by older participants that the number of international students should be
reduced as this made it more for difficult for their own children to enter these institutions and secure jobs.

Although many participants, across generations, had personal immigration stories and personal relationships with refugees, this did not mean they were not concerned about the pressures further immigration could bring if not handled effectively.

Such generational differences may have emerged as a result of younger people growing up with more diverse friendship groups than the older generation, and also as a result of the higher rate of university education among younger generations.

Conversations such as the National Conversation may be effective in increasing intergenerational dialogue and help to create greater understanding of the different hopes and fears around immigration within the community, helping individuals across generations understand where they share common ground.

[1] Enfield Council (2014) Employment and Skills Strategy 2014-2017, London: Enfield Council.

 

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