Economics, Europe, Features, Politics

Who Will Make Our Coffee in Pret?

When a BBC Question Time audience member asked “Who will make our coffee in Pret?” she sincerely believed herself to be making an argument in favour of open borders and globalism.

Her question is valid. Who would make the coffee in Pret? In London last summer I ate at a couple of Pret A Mangers (for those unfamiliar, Pret is a popular British coffee and sandwich chain), and after seeing the Question Time clip I recalled noting at the time a dearth of London accents in the stores. Not only at Prets; an absence of white Londoners was the norm in all the coffee shops and fast food restaurants I patronised.

Not content with having caused a swell of murmured disapprovals in the audience the woman doubled down: “You’re not going to get English people to take those jobs.” On this point she is correct. But why? Why are there, relatively speaking, hardly any white Londoners serving coffee in Pret or flipping burgers at McDonald’s?

With mass migration to the west everything works in a cycle. Poor migrants arrive from places like Bangladesh, Nigeria and El Salvador, perhaps without as much as a high school diploma. They work in menial jobs. Maybe daughter Gita is bright and hardworking and goes to university and the family crawls out of the underclass. She becomes a doctor. Now who makes Gita’s coffee? Immigrants of course, and the cycle continues. If the family isn’t so lucky and Gita doesn’t go to medical school, sociologists put the family’s poverty down to racism. And so it goes on; a conveyor belt of homesick atomised souls from across the planet arriving in dreary western cities (all cities are dreary when you’re poor) to do jobs the natives are too good for, even while native long-term unemployment is considerable.

The Question Time clip reminded me of a piece I read at the New York Times describing the life of a Congolese refugee in Columbus, Ohio.

Purporting to be a heartwarming example of the American Dream in action it instead came across as nightmarish. His story is as follows. He lives with his wife and eight children and ten colleagues. He takes a bus forty miles every day to a meatpacking factory where he works on a line with men and women from countries like Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan. He can’t speak English, but via a translator tells the reporter that he works nine hours a day, seven days a week, and gets home at 1am by which time his wife and children are already sleeping. He says that he is “very lucky”, though no person who grew up in America would say that. For Americans, exposure to such conditions births bestsellers like Fast Food Nation, documentaries by Michael Moore and the neo-Marxist fury of Naomi Klein.

Rather than relieving racism, the outcome of mass migration is that westerners begin to subconsciously associate particular jobs with certain races, ethnic groups and nationalities. The Congolese meatpacker makes $11.50 per hour working in Ohio. This is a huge improvement over war-devastated DR Congo where GDP per capita is under $500. At this point the argument is made that the immigrant now has a chance at a “better life”, and that this noble endeavour should supersede all other concerns. But if a person isn’t fleeing the very real danger of war what is it that defines a better life except the acquisition of material goods, the fruits of capitalism, your American-accented kids going on family trips to Lagos and Mogadishu with iPhones and Nike sneakers?

Does anyone think the Congolese man’s eight children—who, if they go to university, will be constantly told they are victims of racism, colonialism and capitalism—will be happy to work in a meatpacking factory? Probably not. Yet someone has to. In London the Sri Lankan coffee shop worker makes multiples of what they might expect to earn in Colombo, but the bankers, art students and fashion editors who buy coffee and never see it served by anyone who looks or sounds like them absorb a subtle message: these are jobs for the Other.

Ultra-homogeneous nations like Japan and South Korea don’t have these problems. Nobody in Japan asks who will serve the coffee because they already know the answer: Japanese people. Japanese people work in coffee shops and fast food restaurants and meatpacking factories. And because everyone is Japanese, avaricious business owners can’t exploit the world’s destitute while making them feel lucky about it. Nobody in Japan subconsciously thinks “that’s a job for Africans or Central Americans,” because Japanese people do all the jobs.

If every foreign worker did indeed disappear overnight from Britain the result would obviously be chaos, but it would be temporary chaos. It’s not that British people possess some genetic defect that causes them to come out in a rash if they have to do menial work. They had no problems sweeping chimneys, working in mines and putting in the hard graft that kickstarted the industrial revolution. But they’ve seen desperate foreigners from the developing world do certain jobs for so long that even the idea of working in certain fields doesn’t occur to them. Far from being a vindication of globalism, saying: “You’re not going to get English people to take those jobs” highlights its failures.

The influx of low-skilled migrants has not enriched London. It hasn’t made London “stronger” in any way that isn’t hopelessly vague. Tokyo and Seoul have very few migrants but nobody would ever describe those cities as weak or lacking in some way. No, as the Question Time audience member showed, mass migration has turned many Londoners into decadent lotus-eaters who sneer at the idea of making coffee for £6.50 per hour, and this creates social division so profoundly damaging it’s barely comprehensible. Add it to the industrial-strength envy weaponised by the left and you have a recipe for disaster. Keep those borders open and it’s only going to get worse.

Derek Hopper
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Derek Hopper

Derek Hopper Irish writer living in Bangkok.
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26 Comments

  1. Daniel F Cullen says

    Seems like providing a living wage to all workers would solve many of the ills presented in your piece. Thanks though for a solid ‘connecting the dots’ article on migration and low wage work in the West.

    • Adam says

      Pret a manger never employ natives nor British. But would be very easy for anyone just arrived to the country and hardly speaks english to get a job straight away. I did apply 3 times and each time I was refused. When I took to 8talian friends to Victoria main pret recruitment office and gave them job on the next day. That was few years ago. And I called the head office to inquire why I was refused 3 times 6 month apart of each time I apply.. and I had CV working in 5 star for 7 years. Pret never employ white English and others British.

    • Mark says

      traditionally jobs making coffee or serving fast food were entry level jobs staffed by kids or young adults who were not trying to support a family on a minimum wage job. this was the time you learned that if you did not want to do menial labor the rest of your life you went to college or a trade school. to think that these same jobs should now be paying a “living wage” (whatever the hell that means) dismisses and patronizes everyone’s inherent ability and desire to improve, to succeed, to excel instead dooming them to a life of mediocrity.

      • EK says

        Back in the 1960s, in the US, getting some kind of part-time job at age 16 was considered to be a good thing. We worked as busboys, short order cooks, gas station attendants and on cleaning crews. In the summer, we caddied, worked as orderlies and on light construction crews.

        The experience of working taught us the importance of showing up on schedule and on time ready and able to work a shift. Work gave us our own money to manage, it introduced us to new people and dramatically expanded our juvenile horizon. After high school, we could looked forward to two or three years in the army. That gave us structure and discipline and made us self-reliant.

        Reserving all these jobs for strangers or, in the case of volunteer army, for hyper-aggressive males, contributes mightily to the remarkably narrow mindedness and snobbishness of our contemporary youth. They never seem to grow up.

        When you’re working next to someone who is older and who is clearly not very bright but someone who also can do any number of the useful things much better than yourself, it teaches you humility.

    • EndOfPatience says

      And thank you for a reply that manages to completely miss the point of the article, thereby demonstrating the intellectual bankruptcy of the Left.

    • Diggs says

      And who, exactly, would set the amount of the “living wage”?
      And who, exactly, would pay that “living wage”?
      And who, exactly, would ensure that everyone got a job that provided a “living wage”?
      And who, exactly, would ensure that all persons able to work, went to work, in order to receive their “living wage”?
      And where, exactly, does the difference come from when a worker doesn’t produce a “living wage” worth of goods or services through his labor?
      Why, you say, the government, of course!
      It’s been tried, many a time. Venezuela being the latest example of how poorly “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” works in the real world. Because you end up with Hugo Chavez’s daughter having little ability, but needing $4,000,000,000.00 USD according to the Venezuelan government (i.e. Hugo Chavez).

    • Nope. A worker’s wage is determined by the value of the worker’s labor. If the worker can’t live on that wage, he (or she) must either take a second job, get a better job, or improve skills to increase his value. The living wage concept encourages sloth, discourages incentive, and leads to high levels of unemployment.

    • Robert McKenna says

      Who will make our Coffee ? Hopefully, someone who doesn’t wipe their arse with their fingers !

    • Lewin W. Wickes says

      A “living wage” has been forced on San Francisco restaurant owners. Restaurants are closing. A living wage becomes no wage at all. In my small town there are several small coffee shops and restaurants. They would all close if the owners were forced to pay the help $15 an hour. Nobody will pay $20 for a grilled cheese sandwich. At that point they will make their own.

      • Logically, your comment implies that restaurants must pay poverty wages because that’s all their business model allows. I would then argue that if such is the case, people should indeed make their own food. Don’t start any business that relies on exploiting someone’s economic vulnerability.

    • C. W. J. Bevington says

      If we plan on providing monetary support to low-skilled migrants to sustain some minimally-viable living conditions in any case, why not divert this funding initially towards subsiding an education or training in high-skilled trades? It seems that a lack of skill, and hence a reduced ability to contribute to Western society, is at the core of this problem.

      It is fruitless, in the current cycle, for a middle-aged migrant to struggle for ~30 years to provide for his family on a minimal wage without any opportunity to make a real contribution to society–leaving that task to his (often numerous) children.

      Rather, we should break the cycle in the first generation. Provide the opportunity for higher education or high-skilled training. An equal opportunity for all leaves the menial jobs to those least competent and inept to better our society, whether this be a fifth-generation Westerner or a recent migrant.

      That being said, the proportion of low-wage employees will always lean towards first-generation, initially low-skilled immigrants; no government has the funds nor means to equalize the average migrant from an impoverished nation–in intellect and dexterity–with a university or trade school educated Westerner. However, it would be beneficial to both migrants and Western society if they were not immediately relegated to the meatpacking factory 40 miles away.

  2. Josh says

    If you reduce ethnic heterogeneity, you reduce ethnic discrimination. Likewise, if you reduce the number of cars, you reduce the number of car accidents.

    • Have you evidence to support this? Could it not be that reducing heterogeneity might result in people being more aware of ever smaller ethnic differences? No society is truly homogeneous.

  3. Jon says

    The issue is complicated by the fact that some nations — including Japan — have reduced, or are about to, reduce their birth rate below replacement levels. That means that if employment levels in that nation are to continue at their current levels, some of the jobs will have to be filled by immigrants.

    One way to approach this is via automation, and of course this has already eliminated many of the really dangerous and exhausting jobs that people were required to do in the past. How much we can automate the service industry, and whether people will continue to pay for personal service, remains to be seen; but right now I can get a large brewed coffee from a machine in a convenience store for about 40% of the cost of buying it from a barista. That’s a big differential.

    • Given the relative predictability of machines compared to humans, I suspect that if service jobs could be automated, many would prefer that to the possibility of being served by someone having a bad day. Recent history of Amazon etc conquering face-to-face shopping might support this.

  4. Derek Freyberg says

    A number of jobs in Japan are done to an extent by foreigners, mostly South East Asians, but also Chinese, on “training visas” — which seem to be, in practice, low wage visas. These include construction, fishery work, and so on; but jobs where the employee is the face of the organization, such as employees in coffee shops, will be held by Japanese.

  5. jaed says

    It’s not just that the idea to work at certain jobs never occurs to natives. It’s also that after a while, natives can no longer get work in certain industries or at certain companies or in certain positions, because these jobs have come to be seen as reserved for non-natives. (“You wouldn’t fit in, I’m afraid.” It’s true, too.)

  6. David says

    It’s the globalist dream – a self-perpetuating, smug elite at the top and all those pesky, rebellious native white people below replaced with a brown Helot class.

  7. Jules Maigret says

    To sum up, your claim is that there’s a causation between number of migrants, jobs they’re allowed (systemically) to perform, and lack of will to perform them by the natives (as long as they’re associated with degrading jobs)?

  8. Anna Mac says

    One suspects your profanities are projections of yourself.

  9. Bahuleya Minyakka says

    Didn’t Kelly Osbourne say something like this once? “Who will clean your toilets?” or something like that?

  10. Pingback: Glibertarians | Wednesday Afternoon Links

  11. Such workers are typically government-subsidized by means of social housing, which makes it possible for rich cosmopolitans to benefit from cheap service workers, while squeezing out native working and middle classes from cities such as London.

  12. Carl says

    If you object to importing a permanent black underclass to Denmark you are a racist. Racists are those who can not afford to flee diversity. Ben Affleck has brown servants who clean his underwear – not a racist. Not a feudal lord. He benefits from diversity and pays his servants well. If you can’t afford servants you are genetic trash i.e racist scum. You’re white and you’re still working class? You have to compete with meatpacking man! Hahaha what a f**king loser!

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