Home / press /

Net migration is up after five quarters of decline

29 Aug 2013

New data, released today by the Office for National Statistics, show that net migration for the year ending December 2012 is estimated to have been 176,000 – an increase of 23,000 on the year to September 2012 – the first time it has increased after falling for five consecutive quarters, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.

The 2012 provisional estimate for net migration is still 39,000 lower than the same estimate for 2011, but the increase makes the government’s task of reaching the ‘tens of thousands’ target for 2015 appear more difficult.

Declining emigration – which fell by more than 20,000 – is the primary cause of the recent increase. This was mainly among British nationals. Immigration increased by only 2,000 in the same period (the year to December 2012).

Dr Scott Blinder, Acting Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “This is a mixed outcome for the government in its plans to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands.’ On the one hand net migration is still down on 2011, but the recent increase shows that this downward trend is not reliably consistent and still depends partly on emigration of British citizens.”

The data also provide, for the first time, an outline of immigration and emigration of non UK-born people by category – work, study or family migration. This will add to our understanding of the different impacts that each of these flows has on overall net migration, however the data provide only a snapshot so far, and more information will be needed to create any sort of accurate picture.

These data are important because they allow the government to develop a more specific understanding of the impacts of different flows on net migration, and therefore develop more effective policies to manage particular forms of migration.

Dr Blinder added: “The falling levels of British emigration are particularly important in the most recent changes to net migration. It will be interesting to see what impact the improved economic performance of the UK in recent months has on net migration in 2013.

“The new data on immigration and emigration by category raises questions about whether students may be contributing more to long-term net migration than other data sources have suggested. We need more data to work out the long-term impacts, but in the future it may prove to be a key part of our understanding of migration to and from the UK.”


For further information contact:

Rob McNeil Senior Media Analyst, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.
e: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk;  Tel: 01865 274568;  Mob: 07500 970081

Editors’ Notes:

  • Based at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.
  • The Migration Observatory is funded by: Unbound Philanthropy and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
  • The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford conducts high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. For further details see the COMPAS website.
  • COMPAS is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Press Contact

If you would like to make a press enquiry, please contact:

Rob McNeil

+ 44 (0)7500 970081

 Contact Us 


This Migration Observatory is kindly supported by the following organisations.

  • University of Oxford logo
  • COMPAS logo
  • Esmee Fairbairn logo
  • Barrow Cadbury Trust logo
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation logo