Home Business NewsEconomic News How much EU immigration is there, really? How is it affecting UK population growth?

How much EU immigration is there, really? How is it affecting UK population growth?

16th Oct 14 1:56 pm

We all know the UK population is growing rapidly, and the strain that it is putting on our national resources, especially jobs, housing, NHS and welfare.

Net migration to the UK (i.e. immigration, the number of people coming into the UK, minus emigration, the number of UK citizens leaving the UK) is often cited as the main root of these woes.

This is, of course, part of the reason UKIP has gained power and influence in recent years, having taken a decidedly more anti-immigration stance than other parties.

The Tories, feeling the pressure, have ramped up their own rhetoric about curbing immigration since being in government (often to the irritation of London businesses hungry for international talent). Indeed, the party has made reducing immigration a central part of its policy, and introduced a range of measures to try to limit it.

Today it has emerged that the Tories are considering a plan put forward by a group of their senior members to put an “emergency brake” on EU immigration, according to the FT. This measure would contravene EU law unless the UK can prove that we can face exceptional circumstances, which would normally be something like a natural disaster. The proposals suggest, however, working within EU law to enact the brake by proving exceptional circumstances and getting other countries onside with the plan.

You can read the full story here.

So what, in fact, is the impact of EU immigration on the UK’s population?

The chart below shows net EU migration, as per the latest confirmed figures available from the Office for National Statistics (2013 figures are provisional).

There’s no denying how much net EU migration has leapt up since the early noughties – even though there was a tail-off again following the recession, which is just starting to bounce back.

It’s interesting to look at how much net EU migration has impacted the total growth of our population.

I’ve charted this on the graph below, using two ONS data sets to show the amount our UK population has grown by each year (just the gain in thousands of people, not the total population) and net EU migration in thousands of people.

As you can see, EU migration alone is not that great a contributor to population growth, although it is still significant. Other factors, such as improved child mortality rates, longer lifespans and migration from outside the EU might have bigger parts to play. You can explore that data here, although it isn’t comprehensive in breaking down the different factors that cause population growth.

Do you think an “emergency brake” on EU immigration is necessary? Let me know @sophiehobson and in comments below.


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