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Net migration remains at a record high level of 250,000
Think Tanks
Friday 24 Feb 2012 @ 13:10
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Reacting to the recent ONS immigration figures, Matt Cavanagh, Associate Director IPPR, said:

“Today’s figures show that in the first full year entirely under the Coalition Government (from July 2010 to June 2011) net migration remained at a record high level of 250,000. In other words, the Government made no progress on its pledge of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” by the end of the Parliament.

“Reducing immigration is a legitimate goal – but politicians should be wary of promising what they can’t deliver. There is also a risk that ministers will be tempted to take more extreme measures in pursuit of their elusive target, including on those areas of immigration which are most important to our economy, and which surveys show the public are less bothered about, including skilled workers and overseas students.

“More recent figures also published today show that the total number of National Insurance Numbers allocated to foreign nationals - one way of estimating the total number coming here to work – increased by 11% in the year to September 2011. This is in line with last week’s labour market statistics (see here), and is likely to reinforce widespread fears that immigration is exacerbating unemployment. Britain clearly has a major problem with unemployment, including a problem with youth unemployment which predated the financial crisis, as today’s figures on NEETs remind us. But its causes are far too complex to be reduced to blaming immigration (see recent IPPR analysis here).”

Notes to Editors

Net migration, immigration and emigration

Underneath the overall net migration figures, immigration is stable (as the ONS points out, it has been stable since 2004, at just under 600,000). Contrary to some claims, the variation in net migration since 2004 has been due to changes in the level of emigration rather than immigration. In the year to June 2011, overall emigration from the UK was stable (down from 347,000 to 343,000), but within that, emigration of UK nationals rose by 14% (from 128,000 to 143,000), while emigration by foreign nationals fell from 219,000 to 200,000, though this is not statistically significant.

Immigration for work

More recent figures (for the year to December 2011) show a slight fall in the number of work visas granted to non-EEA nationals (down 7% to 149,000). However, this appears to be offset by an increase in the number of Eastern European nationals coming to work (National Insurance Numbers issued to these nationals rose by 14% to 183,000 in the year to September 2011; the immigration figures for Eastern Europeans also show a rise, but the sample size is too small to be statistically robust). This fits with the figures on the total number of National Insurance Numbers allocated to foreign nationals, which increased by 11% in the year to September 2011.

Immigration for study

Study remains the most common reason for long term immigration to the UK: 242,000 in the year to June 2011. “Long term” does not mean “permanent”: it is defined as coming for more than one year. Over 80% of student migrants return home within a few years. More recent figures published today show that the number of student visas granted to non-EEA nationals in the year to December 2011 fell slightly by 4%, to 335,000 (this will include those coming for less than one year).


The number of people granted permanent settlement in the UK fell by 32% (from 242,000 to 163,000) for the full year 2011 compared to 2010. This is in large part a return to the previous trend, after a large increase in 2010. That increase in 2010 was due to the acceleration of the “backlog clearance” exercise, in which a number of older asylum cases were granted settlement. This exercise ran for several years up to the 2010 election, but appears to have been accelerated in 2010, especially after the election, with tens of thousands of additional cases being granted settlement.   

The ONS figures are here:

Last week’s ONS figures on the labour market (including numbers of foreign nationals in work) are here:

IPPR’s review of immigration trends and forecast for 2012 is here:

IPPR’s most recent analysis of the link between immigration and unemployment is here:

IPPR’s analysis of the “backlog clearance exercise”, affecting settlement figures in 2010, is here:


Richard Darlington, 07525 481 602,

Tim Finch, 07595 920899,


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