Global population movement

This driver has been archived

This driver has now been replaced by Immigration

Globalisation has led to increased levels of population movement around the world, particularly in terms of refugees and migrant workers. In recent years Britain saw its highest levels of migration in history due to rapid migration from the new Eastern European EU member states, however numbers are now falling, due in large part to the economic downturn and rising unemployment. Economic immigration is likely to increase again before improvements in UK unemployment. A significant number of Britains also emigrate each year. This ‘churn’ is unique to the UK. In the future, climate change is likely to significantly impact on global population movement.

What are the implications?

  • Migration impacts on the performance of the UK economy and the labour market.
  • Increased international migration will led to greater cultural and ethnic diversity in the UK.
  • Failure to recognise cultural diversity and develop policies that encourage the respect of differences could lead to a rise in identity politics.
  • Press coverage and far-right political campaigning on the impact of immigration impacts on attitudes towards immigrants
  • Continued immigration influences debates around national identity, and government policies on multiculturalism
  • Rapid immigration and inaccurate statistics that underestimate the true number of migrant workers may put pressure for funding on public services.
  • Migration can put public services under pressure, with an assumption that the VCS will fill the gaps.
  • New immigrants are often quite poor, which may exacerbate social-economic inequalities.
  • Global migration can open up a new talent pool to VCOs.

Moving forward

Increased diversity may mean it becomes more important to consider the broader social impacts of your organisation’s activities.

  • What is your relationship with other groups and communities? Could this be improved?
  • There is a continued need for open forums and cross-community initiatives; can your organisation play a role in these?
  • What impact does diversity have on the accessibility of your services? For example, are you able to deliver your products and services in a number of languages?
  • As competition for skills increases, is your organisation able to take advantage of the global talent pool by attracting new migrants or workers from overseas? 

Migration and an under-estimation of the true number of migrants may put pressure on public services and how they are funded, leaving VCOs to fill in the gaps. Starting to deliver public services or expanding those your organisation delivers already is a strategic choice for each organisation.

  • Is your organisation ready to deliver public services?
  • How will it change your relationship with your stakeholders? Or the way you deliver your services?

Want to know more?

Floodgates or turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK

Published by: IPPR – a left of centre think tank

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? A report discussing immigration to the UK from new EU members.

How useful is this? This report discusses immigration into the UK from the EU countries that joined in 2004, particularly from Poland. The report identifies that unlike economic migrants from some other regions, those from the new members of the EU are more likely to return to their home countries to visit and are to return permanently after a relatively brief stay in the UK.

Other comments:

Supporting migrant workers in rural areas

Published by: Citizens Advice Bureau – a charity providing free information and support

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it? A guide to Citizen Advice Bureaux initiatives supporting migrant workers in rural areas.

How useful is this? Although targeted at Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) this report provides transferable insights and good practice that may be useful for other organisations.  This article explores the challenges to the providers of services in rural areas based on the experience of CABs.  Challenges are split into: communications; availability of advice; management of bureau business; challenges for staff/volunteers; changing nature of problems.  The report considers the effects of these challenges for CAB and initiatives set up to overcome them.

Other comments:

Brits Abroad: Mapping the scale and nature of British emigration

Published by: IPPR – a left of centre think tank

Date: 2006

Format: PDF (executive summary, full publication available to purchase)

What is it? The executive summary of a report looking at emigration from the UK, including emigration statistics and findings.

How useful is this? Although only the executive summary is available free online, useful information is included on the numbers of Britons living abroad, where they live, who they are and their motivations.  It considers the role of identity and technology and ends by discussing what emigration patterns will look like in the future.  More information including statistics and case studies is available at:

On the move: Labour migration in times of recession

Published by:Policy Network, a centre-left international think tank, established with the support of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and others

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? A paper looking at the impact of recession on immigration in the UK. It analyses evidence on migration flows during previous economic downturns in the UK and more widely in Europe and considers implications for the present.

How useful is this? This is a fairly in-depth academic paper, however it provides in-depth analysis of how recessions and immigration interact and affect each other. The key finding of the paper is that foreign immigration tends to fall when unemployment rises but only for a limited period, after which it picks up again often before an improvement in the country’s employment situation. Meanwhile, outflows of migrants also tend to fall after an initial rise when those who always intended to return do so.

Migration: Immigration over half a million

Published by: Office for National Statistics - a Government Department

Date: 2007

Format: Web

What is it? A statistical analysis of international migration to and from the UK.

How useful is this? A short but useful source of statistics on international migration including: levels over recent years; breakdown by EU membership; routes to enter the UK; and reasons for migration.

Other comments: The full data can be found in the Total International Migration (TIM) Tables: 1991- latest. The tables present statistics on the flows of international migrants to and from the United Kingdom for 1991-2007 (the latest data available).  The tables only provide data rather than analysis. They are very useful if you are looking for the actual figures, however they are aimed at people familiar with statistical data and therefore can be difficult to interpret.

Last updated at 16:02 Wed 23/Feb/11.

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Natalie's picture


Third Sector Foresight

This news post discusses a report by the Times which revealed that for the first time since they began arriving four years ago, more UK-based Poles are returning to Poland than entering Britain.

The post examines some of the implications for this on the UK economy and labour market.

Some of you may be interested in a recent report written by the Norwegian Refugee Council on climate change ‘Future Floods of Refugees – A comment on climate change, conflict and forced migration’. More and more NGOs in the area of migration and refugee issues are strengthening their work on climate and environment, due to the negative consequences these have on displacement and societies in general.

This is quite predictable a movement. The migration cycle is about 3 to 4 years. In this time, about 85% of newcomers have achieved their financial objectives and return to their place of origin. Interestingly, there is usually a recycling of jobs, as the outgoing workers turn over their jobs to friends and relatives at ‘home’. This recycling process may be retarded in the current economic downturn, as the UK exports its unemployment abroad.

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Interested in knowing more about how this driver could affect your organisation? Have a look at the latest in our Future Focus series: What will the UK population be like in 5 years' time?

Hmm, Central-Eastern European immigrants hear so often that they dream only about coming home after a few years that there is a risk that they will start to believe it! I myself am someone who is often called "Immigrant from A10" and believe me, I'm heading only forward. If not staying, of course. But when everybody asks you when do you plan to go back it makes you think about your place in the society, doesn't it? Obviously, many immigrants go back during the downturn because quite often these people are relatively poorer and loosing job means ending up rough sleeping within a month - no family, no social networks. Nobody wants that.

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