Immigration to the UK – What’s Happening?
|July 11, 2018||Posted by admin under Uncategorized|
The history of immigration to the UK is as old as human civilization – in the modern period, major groups of immigrants to the UK have added key elements to the British culture.
One can get an interesting contrast in migration trends to the UK by contrasting migration numbers for the 140 years before the end of World War II, and the last half-century – the postwar era.
For instance, officials keep track of changing numbers on immigration by country of origin, finding trends in the migration habits of world populations and how they relate to the UK And its political position in the Eurozone.
We can see that migrants come from places both near and far – from other European countries, and from countries on other continents. Another thing that’s interesting to note is migration from former territories of the British Empire including Pakistan, the Caribbean, and Bangladesh.
In recent years, the Office of National Statistics has estimated net immigration to be around 230,000. That’s a lot of people coming in from a lot of different places! What’s happening with UK immigration has a lot to do with globalism, economics and the interplay of different cultures and societies, in an area of the world where many different ethnicities and nationalities regularly live and work together. The UK is in many ways a “melting pot” with a very diverse population.
Immigrants to the UK: Immigration Laws
The UK has a managed migration plan that governs modern immigration laws for people moving into the country. This system is composed of five “tiers” that are characterized as follows:
Tier 1 – skilled and specialized workers who have specific capabilities to offer the national economy
Tier 2 – workers with some skill and a job offer pending
Tier 3 – lower skilled workers to provide general labor
Tier 4 – students
Tier 5 – temporary workers and those who intend to stay in the country for only a short time
A 2010 cap on immigration also applies.
The five immigration tiers reveal some of the philosophy of immigration that drives the government to manage immigration numbers. Due to limited housing and other factors, the country does not want to be “overcrowded” – however, with lower birth rates and some types of labor shortages, others argue that it’s important to allow for particular kinds of immigration. A study at Economics Help shows that immigrants are not special cases when it comes to the receipt of welfare benefits, and that many make a positive fiscal contribution to the country’s economy.
The UK government also offers detailed guidance in immigration through a series of “UK immigration rules” that further define the laws and realities governing entrance to the country and the overall context of UK immigration. For example, the government defines a “Common Travel Area” as made up of United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man. The CTA provides a framework for talking about immigration regulations.
Other UK immigration laws address supplementary procedures that may apply: in addition to Immigration Officers, the UK also has Medical Officers of Environmental Health who may be called upon to participate in an immigration process.
As for those seeking asylum in the UK, government documents spell out a process where these immigrants are given temporary housing as a claim is worked out. Some special cases are treated differently, as in the commitment of the UK to take in certain numbers of Syrian refugees from the active Syrian civil war. In general, the asylum process is consistent and standardised according to UK law.
Understanding the immigration tier system is important to getting a better grasp of how the UK handles various classes of immigrants. There’s also the question of whether dependants or family members will get standing to immigrate along with a particular tier of immigration status. UK agencies also track the popularity of certain types of immigration status, for example, the popularity of student visas, and changing requirements for skilled workers such as minimum income requirements. These standards help to show how “skilled” a professional may be for immigration purposes. Other ongoing changes include changes to immigration costs and fees, such as some recently announced this year. Fostering a closer understanding of UK immigration law is one of the goals of the agencies in question.
In pursuit of these kinds of goals, the UK government is also offering to create a smooth transition in terms of immigration changes after the Brexit vote, as the Brexit process begins to be really implemented in UK society. As opposed to what agencies term a “cliff edge,” the government wants to instead work up to full implementation through 2019 and successive years by phasing in certain requirements that move the state away from some of the free transfer elements of the EU contract. Experts show that government officials are in the process of trying to build a “new immigration system” after Brexit, without upsetting the apple cart by moving too swiftly with changes.
EU Immigrants in the UK
Recent studies estimate that about 3.7 million people living in the UK over the past year have come from other European Union states.
Studies from the Migration Observatory talk about a lot of Eastern European immigrants to the UK after the extension of the European Union in 2004, and how the EU agreements facilitated more moving about inside the Eurozone.
In a sense, the issue of European Union migrants into the UK is one that was governed by the detailed agreements of the European Union contract prior to the Brexit process set in motion in 2016. The free movement of persons being part of the European Union contract, citizens of the European Economic Area have typically enjoyed the right to come into the UK and live and work there.
New reports on the Brexit process show that certain changes may take place as part of the official implementation planned for 2019. The Center for European Reform has provided resources showing that many of the current EU migrants in the UK will likely be able to stay, being grandfathered into any political process to keep EU immigration to a minimum.
The European Economic Area is a particular construct of the European Union. Members include:
- Czech Republic
Although the membership typically means increased access, eight countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, commonly known as the A8 had been at one point temporarily restricted in terms of labor market access. A2 countries Bulgaria and Romania have also been restricted in the past.
The issue of EU immigrants in the UK is one that has become significantly more complex in the context of Brexit.
In past years, it was fairly typical for young people to move abroad within Europe and between the European mainland and the UK to look for work. Europe was an open marketplace – and the UK was participating.
It’s only with the recent shadow of Brexit’s pending regulations that we’re looking at less free movement across the channel – and so that’s having an effect on the specific issue of immigration within the Eurozone. Those previously privileged with open movement may be required to go through a more involved process for a long-term trip to the UK.
Some British newspapers including the Sun are talking about what will happen when the new laws are really implemented.
First of all, the government has confirmed that any EU citizen who settles in the UK by 2021 will have a lifetime right of return in addition to being able to bring family members, even extending to grandparents, who may be either within or outside the Eurozone.
There’s even a provision for what the government calls a “durable partner” where those have been together for more than two years can apply for the same rights. Home Office officials have mentioned simple forms and low-cost fees for these types of applications.
The children born in the UK will automatically become British citizens.
What’s new is that Britain will have a permit system for immigrants who come to work that will put a cap on the number of such immigrations. However, it’s important to note that the post-Brexit system is still evolving and changing until the government decides on a permanent new immigration plan.
With some debate inside the country about “who should we let in after Brexit?” some academics are weighing in on how this will go – an article by Carlos Vargas-Silva at Intereconomics states that “these issues are much more complicated than indicated by the promises and assurances made during the referendum campaign” – and cites “major uncertainty” about what’s actually going to happen in future policy. Economists theorize that the UK could either continue with models that involve free transfer of people across the European economic area or institute lockdowns and controls that are unprecedented in the wake of the EU contract.
Other economists have suggested the country is highly likely to keep creating special provisions of the type that exists on both sides of the Atlantic for especially skilled workers and those who can contribute capital or invest in national property or infrastructure.
Non-EU Immigrants in the UK
Non-EU immigrants in the UK make up a significant percent of the total population.
A annual population survey of the Office for National Statistics breaks this down into the five most common countries of origin of non-UK immigrants.
The most common is Poland with about 1 million immigrants.
India is second with over 800,000 U.K. residents listing India as their country of birth.
Pakistan is next with over 500,000, and the Republic of Ireland is next with nearly 400,000. Romania is fifth.
In terms of nationality, Poland is again at the top of the list, followed by India, Republic of Ireland, Romania and then Italy.
As for occupational profiles, the most common locations of foreign-born workers in the UK can be broken down this way:
The greatest portion of foreign-born workers is the category of “elementary process plant operatives” a term for fairly unskilled labor that makes up 42% of this population. This is followed by process operatives at 36%.
In third place is cleaning and housekeeping managers at 35% followed by elementary cleaning occupations at 31%.
Other top categories include:
- Food preparation and hospitality
- Textiles and garment trades
- Health professionals
- Elementary storage occupations
- IT and telecom professionals
- Assemblers and routine operatives
In terms of sectors, Migration Observatory points out that the largest amount of foreign-born workers work in the manufacture of food products, followed by the manufacturing of garments. Next was domestic personnel, followed by food and beverage service activities, and the following, in descending order:
- Lodgings and accommodation
- Security and investigation activities
- Computer programming and consultancy
- Services to building and landscape
- Land transport
From these statistics, it’s evident that non-European Union immigrants to the UK perform various types of labor – that while some fall into the general labor category, others are more specialized or provide professional services. The Migration Observatory and the ONS keep detailed tabs on labor markets and specific sectors, to provide a real picture of what’s happening within the country in terms of immigrant labor.
The largest numbers of immigrants in the United Kingdom live in London as evidenced again in the Migration Observatory. Unlike in many of the more rural parts of the UK, immigrants in London really make their mark on the culture of the city and contribute quite a lot to the very diverse neighborhoods in and around the capital. As a popular landing spot for newcomers, London is a prolific host to immigrants from both within Europe and outside. It’s a place where many of these immigrants are able to set up and operate businesses and provide for their families.
Detailed reports of non-EU immigration show that in general, these individuals face a higher bar. The government asks questions about employment and salary, and the stability of one’s job role in accessing who gets to come in under tier 2 status. There are more controls on bringing family members into the UK, and less leeway on the terms of either short-term or long-term visitation. This reflects the traditional agreement that Europe had where those outside the EU do not benefit from the rather broad provisions of the EU contract.
Impact of Immigration on the UK Economy
As shown in resources from economic help, immigration often provides a positive impact on the UK economy.
A general impact is an increase in the labor force – but there’s also evidence showing that GDP has risen with net immigration partly because migrant populations increase total spending
Some economic also contend that higher immigration creates a more flexible labor market and that foreign-born students also provide benefits to the economy
As for whether or not migration creates a net positive in terms of tax revenues versus benefits paid, detailed trends show that revenues exceeded expenses from 1997 to around 2009 when at least for those immigrants in the EEA while those numbers were lower after the global recession
All of this shows that the impact of immigration on British productivity, unemployment and benefits programs is varied and dynamic – that the impact of immigration has to do with the greater context and political events – specifically Brexit, which will have a huge impact on the UK economy. It’s still largely unknown what that impact will be as the British government prepares to really implement Brexit fully.
In some senses, EU citizens may be given special consideration after Brexit – by virtue of the fact that their immigration may be grandfathered into pre-existing rules that allow them to stay in the country. In other senses, Brexit will very much universalize a process for immigration that will take away some of the free transfer rights evident in the prior European Union contract.
In a very real sense, the actual impact of future immigration in the EU has to do with the broader context including issues like automation. Who will work and who will do the specific jobs required to provide services for the population? Again, where there is significant concern about lower birth rates and the labor shortage, immigration may well be seen as a main method of dealing with the problem. There’s not likely to be an extreme sustained and hard-line anti-immigrant position at the expense of labor shortages. However, it’s true that many more people may see more barriers in place to easy integration into the EU. Economists and officials will continue to study the annual effect on the economy by looking at this classifications and job roles mentioned above to figure out what’s changing within the UK economy.
In conclusion, both European Union and non-EU immigration have changed quite a bit within the last few years, and are subject to changing agreements and treaties on international borders. The European neighbors’ philosophy of the European Union contract is under some pressure and is likely to change in terms of tourism and long-term immigration.
Indeed, what will we see after Brexit?
Where will the new immigration policies in the UK lead? Much of this may have to do with how Europe and Britain see the world and themselves. The UK has to re-evaluate how Brexit changes things, and to what degree. A new path must be forged – and that means work. Deviating from the default or status quo requires rolling up one’s sleeves and getting to work on new models that are being carved out of blank stone or “tabula rosa” – so the reports on how government officials are looking at the post-Brexit mandate are important – but so are the intuitive feelings within society, reflected in the newspapers and in other reports from the street. A third source is the government agencies themselves who are working to interpret UK immigration through the post-Brexit lens.