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Net migration to the UK reaches highest level recorded

27 Aug 2015

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Net migration to the UK reached a record 330,000 in the year ending March 2015 and the size of the foreign-born population reached 8,277,000 new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

This is the highest net migration figure on record. The previous peak was 320,000 in the year ending June 2005, which was the first full year after the expansion of the EU in 2004. Net migration increased by 94,000 in a year, from 236,000 in the year to March 2014 to 330,000 in the year to March 2015. This increase is statistically significant.

Net migration has risen steadily since the year ending September 2012. Increases over the past year were driven by net migration of both EU and non-EU citizens, among whom net migration was 183,000 and 196,000 respectively. The Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto maintained the goal of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “Migration levels are currently comparable to what we saw in the mid-2000s after EU enlargement. What this means for the UK is subjective. There is no objective way to decide what the ‘right’ number of migrants is, and reasonable people will disagree. What is clear is that reducing net migration to below 100,000 remains a distant prospect, at least under current economic conditions and policies.”

The UK’s foreign-born population reached 8.3 million in 2014, or 13% of the population. This up from 5.3 million, or 8.9%, in 2004. The share of the foreign-born population coming from EU countries continued to edge upwards, reaching 37% in 2014. This compares to 28% in 2004 and 35% in 2013.

Sumption added: “The UK remains a major destination for international migrants, in part due to its flexible labour market and attractive higher education sector. But it is by no means an outlier by international standards. People born abroad make up a similar share of the population in other EU countries like Germany, Spain and Sweden.”

A recent analysis by the Migration Observatory shows that among the countries that were members of the EU before 2004, the foreign born made up a higher share of the population in six countries, and a lower share in nine countries at the beginning of 2014.


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