Immigration and net migration are currently high but volatile. Migration of people into the UK primarily revolves around seeking work, study or asylum as well as family reunification.  A significant number of British and EU citizens also emigrate each year, and the difference between these two amounts is the “net migration”. Applications for Asylum have remained stable and low since 2005 and this is unlikely to change.  Both immigration and net migration have also remained stable but high during the same time period (2005 – 2009) [1] however recent figures for 2010 suggest a sharp drop in emigration from the UK resulting in a rise of net migration. 

Immigration is becoming an increasingly politisised issue.  The coalition government is committed to the popular conservative pre-election manifesto policy to reduce net migration from “hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands” by introducing an immigration cap.  The government cannot restrict the amount of inter-EU migrants so the cap will only affect immigrants from outside the EU (which currently constitute about 2/3 of all UK immigration).  Overseas students are likely to bear the brunt of the reduction (60%), with family reunion (20%) and work-related migration (20%) following.  With rising net migration and increasing dissent surrounding the policy, its scale and effectiveness remains to be seen. The impact however on non-EU migrants and those who rely on them is likely to be considerable. Current and future increases in EU immigration, particularly from Ireland, Lithuania and Latvia in 2010 and 2011 mean that on the whole net migration is unlikely to change significantly in the near future. In the medium-long term future, climate change is likely to significantly impact on global population movement and immigration into the UK.

What are the implications?

  • Migration impacts on the performance of the UK economy and the labour market.
  • A cap on non-EU immigration mean there would be fewer migrants to plug any gaps in labour and skills – particularly in the care sector.
  • International migration will lead to greater ethnic and cultural diversity in the UK.
  • Diaspora communities in the UK may increasingly raise awareness of issues and create innovative campaigns focused on their countries of origin.
  • Press coverage and far-right political campaigning on the impact of immigration impacts on attitudes towards immigrants.
  • Immigration influences multiculturalism and stokes debates surrounding national identity.
  • Migration can put public services under pressure, with large scale reform of public services now more than ever it may fall to the VCS to fill the gaps.
  • New immigrants are often quite poor, which may exacerbate social-economic inequalities (see poverty and inequality).
  • Increased political interest and activity as the government attempts to curb high net migration.
  • A cap may also create social issues surrounding cohesion and wellbeing if family reunification migrants are restricted.

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? 

A reduction of skilled migrants from non-EU countries through an immigration cap may put strain on the social work and care sector as councils and organisations struggle to fill vacancies.

  • Is your organisation finding it harder to fill social work posts with experienced practitioners due to a reduction in skilled non-EU migrants?
  • Can you diversify your recruitment techniques to include places like Scotland where there are fewer recruitment issues?
  • Could you restructure your organisation at all to protect and preserve front line services, especially to vulnerable groups, in lieu of this labour shortage?

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:

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 detailed 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.

The Future of European Migration: Policy Options for the European Union and its Member States

Published by: IOM (International Organization for Migration)

Date: 2010

Format: PDF

What is it? A background paper to the World Migration Report 2010 focusing on the future of European Migration and the policy options for the European Union.

How useful is this? Mainly focussing on the EU this paper looks at figures and trends surrounding current European migration, what existing migration policies are in place among different states and what migration policies Europe needs.  The examination of policy options looks at both short-term and long-term approaches based on predicted trends.

Other comments: The full 2010 World Migration report entitled the “Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change” can be downloaded as a free PDF.  It looks at the likely future trends in migration and the capacities that will be required by States, regional and international organisations, civil society and the private sector to manage migration successfully over the coming decades.

Migration – Net migration remains high

Published by: ONS

Date: 2010

Format: Web

What is it? An ONS overview of the latest UK migration figures.

How useful is this? This brief page compiles the latest figures on immigration in and emigration out of the UK.  It explains the recent changes as well as reasons for these changes and provides a graph representing figures from the past 2 decades.

Other comments: A larger selection of figures, graphs and analyses can be found on the International migration section of the ONS website.


  1. "Net migration remains high" (Long-term International Migration - LTIM) - ONS, 2010 [back]
Last updated at 13:17 Thu 03/Mar/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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