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Migration trends – New booklet gives insights into migrant population

Current and future migration trends in the UK are examined in a booklet published today by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It describes, among other things, how numbers of foreign nationals working in the UK rose strongly to top a million for the first time in 1998, and by 2005 had reached 1.5 million (4.1 per cent of all in employment).

Titled ‘Globalisation, population mobility and impact of migration on population’, the booklet brings together work done by Professors John Salt, of University College, London, and Phil Rees, of the University of Leeds, as well as statistics and analyses produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In 2004, an estimated 223,000 more people migrated to the UK than moved abroad – a net inflow much higher than the previous year, when an estimated 151,000 more arrived to live here than left.

Professor Salt said: “Opening up of the labour market to citizens of the new member states of the EU from May 2004 initiated what is almost certainly the largest ever single wave of immigration the British Isles have ever experienced, with Poles the largest ever single national group of entrants.”

Numbers of Central and Eastern European (CEE) nationals in the foreign work force have grown rapidly, reaching 169,000 - 11.2 per cent - in 2005. The EU15/EFTA countries make up 32 per cent of foreign workers and, in terms of single countries, the Irish remain clear leaders, though their dominance has fallen, from 22.6 per cent in 1995 to only 11.6 per cent in 2005.

In 2003, more than one-fifth of all in-migrants (114,000) came for work-related reasons and had a specific job to go to, and more than a quarter came to study here (135,000).

Professor Salt’s analyses points out that while foreign workers in the UK have generally been more skilled than the domestic workforce, there are signs that this might be changing, probably due to the new immigration from CEE countries.

Numbers of people granted settlement have risen steadily over the last decade, while those of asylum seekers have fluctuated – falling in the past few years to less than one in 10 of all immigrants.

Projections from Professor Phil Rees, between now and 2020, show the White ethnic group growing only a little, due to continuing low fertility rates and smaller numbers of women of child-bearing age, along with higher deaths as the population ages.

London and the south east are forecast, in general, to continue seeing the greatest change, due to the region’s capacity to create jobs. Professor Rees finds signs of movement among ethnic minority groups from the less vigorous economies of northern cities to southern ones.

There are also signs of net shifts to suburban and metropolitan rings in the London area. He forecasts that the Black population of Inner London will decline, and that by 2020, Outer London will take over from the central part of the capital as the most important region for ethnic minorities.

The booklet accompanies the third and last in a series of special seminars organised by the ESRC in conjunction with the ONS and the British Society for Population Studies (BSPS), at which policy departments and academic experts have discussed key issues for those who provide official data.

Jil Matheson, Director of Census, Demographic and Regional Statistics at the ONS, will chair the seminar, on July 21 in London. She said: “Understanding migration is key to many policy issues. The ONS has just established a cross-departmental task force, aimed at making recommendations for timely improvements to estimates of international migration. We welcome this seminar as providing an opportunity for discussion of the evidence underpinning this important and complex issue.”

Amanda Williams at the ESRC on 01793 413126; e-mail:
Or visit the ESRC website at

Amanda Williams | alfa
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