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Over the net: Government’s policy changes likely to miss the “tens of thousands” net migration target by more than 65,000

21 Jun 2011

Promises to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” by the end of this parliament are highly unlikely to be delivered by current policy – which is set to miss the target by more than 65,000 new analysis by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory has revealed.

In a commentary released today entitled “Off Target” the Migration Observatory has established that the Conservative pledge to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 by 2015 – repeated by the Prime Minister, The Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister on several occasions in recent months – does not correspond to the Government’s own estimates of how far net migration can be reduced by current policy changes.

Latest figures show that net migration has increased to 242,000 (year to September 2010). The Government is attempting to reduce this level in four ways: reducing labour immigration, student immigration and family immigration from outside the EU; and making it harder for migrants to settle in the UK – encouraging greater outflows.

The 242,000 figure means that the Government needs to reduce net migration by over 142,000 by 2015 to achieve their goal. However Government impact assessments estimate:

  • Changes to the work route will reduce net migration by 11,000 in 2015.
  • Changes to the student route will reduce net migration by 56,000 in 2015.

The Migration Observatory estimates:

  • Forthcoming changes to family migration, set to be consulted on over the summer, are unlikely to reduce net-migration by more than 8,000.
  • Proposed changes to settlement policy are unlikely to deliver tangible change for net-migration before 2016 as they will only affect migrants who arrived in the UK after April 2011, meaning it will take five years before they affect outflows.

In total this means that, based on the Government’s own figures and other generous assessments of the potential effects, the Government’s current policies are unlikely to cut net migration by more than 75,000 – and possibly less – by the end of this parliament.

Dr Scott Blinder, Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory said:

“The Government ‘s current policies only look likely to reduce net migration by about 75,000 at best – which would mean that further reductions of more than 67,000 would be needed to meet the “tens of thousands” net migration target.

Essentially this leaves the government with four choices: introduce further restrictions on non-EU nationals; reconsider the target or the timeframe in which they intend to deliver it; continue and hope that net migration of British and EU nationals turns sufficiently negative; or continue and hope that all the current impact assessments are way off the mark. We think the last two of these are pretty unlikely.”


For further information contact:

Rob McNeil, Senior Media Analyst, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

email: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk; tel: 01865 274568; Mob: 07500 970081

Notes for Editors

Read the full Off Target commentary

  • 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; the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund 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 detail see the COMPAS website.
  • COMPAS is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

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