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Net migration decreases across all routes – but ‘old EU’ bucks the trend

29 Nov 2012

Figures released today show that net migration has fallen significantly – from 242,000 in the year to March 2011 to 183,000 in the year to March 2012 with all major reasons – study, work and family – showing declines over this period.

Dr Scott Blinder, Deputy Director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University said: “The fact that this decline appears to be across all of the key routes will make pleasing reading for the government. It’s not really possible at this stage to identify the causes of the declines, but clearly it is not one specific channel such as student migration that has led to the decline, but an overall reduction in all routes.”

Some initial reactions have identified a fall in student immigration as a driver of the overall result, but this fails to take into account the full year picture, which shows declines across the board. Key reductions are shown in the table below.

Focusing only on changes since December 2011 suggests that students have been the main source of the decline in immigration, but over the course of the previous year, immigration for work has declined almost as much, and family migration has declined as well.

Table 1 – Changes in immigration to the UK for the year to March 2012 by Reason (thousands)

Compared to Work Study Accompany/join Other
year to March 2011 -17 -19 -10 3
year to December 2011 -7 -19 -3 1

Source: ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report November 2012.

An interesting anomaly is that migration from “old Europe” – the 15 EU member states predating the 2004 accession – has bucked the trend for the past year. Immigration from the EU15 shows signs of having increased over the course of the past albeit by a level which is not statistically significant.

Today’s figures show that in the year to March 2012 net migration from the EU 15 has increased by around 6,000 compared with the year to March 2011, which raises interesting questions about why migration from EU 15 countries is different from other flows – including those from EU accession states, which has also declined.

Table 2 – Changes in immigration to the UK for the year to March 2012 by Citizenship (thousands)

Compared to All British EU15 A8 Non-EU
year to March 2011 -42 -19 6 -12 -21
year to December 2011 -30 -5 -1 -7 -18

Source: ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report November 2012.

Dr Scott Blinder, added: “Today’s news suggests that migration from the ‘old’ EU15 countries may be following a different pattern from other groups – even those, like the A8 Eastern European countries, whose citizens also have the right to live and work in UK. This trend bears watching – if it continues, it will raise questions to investigate about a possible relationship to economic situations in Eurozone countries, and about a possible ‘substitution effect’ with EU migration partially replacing that from other countries.”



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