Migration rises as non-EU workers make up for fall in EU arrivals

The Telegraph Finance 3 months ago

Migration into the UK is on the up as non-EU nationals arrive in growing numbers, more than replacing a slide in EU citizens coming to Britain.

Net migration rose to 282,000 in 2017, the Office for National Statistics said, up from 249,000 in 2016.

This is still short of the high of 332,000 in 2015, but takes the number of arrivals minus departures back above its annual average of a quarter of a million over the past five years.

New arrivals are increasingly likely to have a job already confirmed before they reach the country, the ONS said.

EU nationals are more likely to arrive in Britain for work while those from elsewhere in the world are more likely to study.

It found 193,000 people came to the UK with a ‘definite job’ arranged, up from 180,000 in 2016. The number arriving to look for work fell from 89,000 to 76,000.

Companies are worried that the country is already suffering from a skills shortage because unemployment is at its lowest level in more than 40 years, and that a fall in immigration would intensify the problem.

“Skills gaps are opening up across the economy. Individuals from abroad play a crucial role in addressing these shortages, in sectors from agriculture right through to financial services. But international workers also bring new ideas, management techniques, and a wealth of knowledge about foreign markets, which helps lift British trade and productivity,” said Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors.

“With a stretched labour market, maintaining our attractiveness to international talent and bolstering businesses’ access to global skill-sets will be essential. The Government’s aim for an ambitious post-Brexit labour mobility scheme is welcome, but we also need to see the Government creating a positive overall migration policy later on this year that enables companies to take advantage of opportunities for growth around the world.”

Net migration from the EU into the UK fell to 101,000 in 2017, down from 133,000 in 2016 to its lowest level since 2012.

However migration from elsewhere in the world increased to 277,000 last year, up from 175,000 in 2016. This was driven particularly by larger numbers of migrants from Asia, though there was also a small increase from North America, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa.

“It's a mystery how the number of non-EU workers is increasing when there are so many restrictions being placed on the visa limit for recruiting highly-skilled non-EU workers,” said Gerwyn Davies at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.

"However, the sharp increase in the number of citizens from Asia suggests that employers are going to greater lengths to address rising recruitment difficulties by using loopholes such as ancestral visas and the intra-company transfer scheme.”

Student numbers have also recovered after a sharp fall in 2016. Officials believe this was the result of a blip in the data for 2016 rather than a genuine resurgence in 2017.

One important shift in the make-up of net migration is a rise in the number of EU nationals leaving the UK. This emigration has picked up to 139,000, compared to 116,000 in 2016 and 86,000 in 2015.

“The recent increase in immigration has been driven by non-EU nationals and has taken place at a time when net migration from the Eastern European countries that joined the EU in the mid-2000s has been at zero,” said Stephen Clarke at the Resolution Foundation.

“This should remind us all that migration – and Britain’s migration policy – is not just about the EU.”

The number of British citizens moving back into the country edged up a touch while the number emigrating slid slightly, leaving the net outflow down a little at 46,000 in 2017, compared to 60,000 in 2016.

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