Official figures confirm exodus of EU workers from UK

Net migration to the UK drops. Are the latest UK/EU migration figures an indication of a long-term trend?

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Net migration to the UK has dropped to its lowest total in three years amid an exodus of nationals from other European Union countries since the Brexit vote, according to official statistics on Thursday.The net migration total - the difference between the number arriving and those leaving - stood at 246,000 in the year to March, some 81,000 lower than the figure recorded for the year earlier with more than half the fall attributable to a decrease of 51,000 in net migration from the EU.

Publication of ONS data coincides with UK Government-announced immigration study

Publication of the data from the Office for National Statistics coincided with a government announcement of an inquiry into the economic and social effects of the arrival in the UK each year of 140,000-plus overseas students.The ONS data showed that emigration of EU citizens had increased by 33,000 over the year to 122,000, the highest figure recorded in almost 10 years and largely attributable to a sharp rise in the number of departures of people from the so-called EU8 nations: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.Nicola White, head of migration statistics at the ONS, said: "We have seen a fall in net migration driven by an increase in emigration, mainly for EU citizens and in particular EU8 citizens, and a decrease in immigration across all groups."International migration for work remains the most common reason for migration with people becoming increasingly likely to move to the UK or overseas only with a definite job than to move looking for work."These results are similar to 2016 estimates and indicate that the EU referendum result may be influencing people's decision to migrate into and out of the UK, particularly EU and EU8 citizens. It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend."
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In a research paper accompanying the figures, the ONS said: "Long-Term International Migration estimated that 275,000 people immigrated for work-related reasons in year ending March 2017, down from 303,000 for the previous year. "This difference was not statistically significant but this is the lowest recorded estimate since the year ending September 2014. The majority immigrated with a definite job (188,000) but fewer people arrived looking for work (down 39,000 to 87,000 – a statistically significant decrease)."

Institute of Directors: No one should celebrate these numbers

Business groups expressed their concern at the figures at a time when they are struggling to employ the skills companies need. A spokesman for the Institute of Directors said "no one should celebrate these numbers". "Given unemployment is currently at its lowest level ever, without the three million EU citizens living here the UK would have an acute labour shortage," he said. "Signs that it is becoming a less attractive place to live and work are a concern." Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market analyst at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), pointed out that net migration from the EU remained above the average level seen before the bloc expanded to its current 28 member states. “Initial fears that Brexit would have a material impact on employers’ ability to fill vacancies therefore seem to be somewhat premature,” he said.“While employers may be breathing a temporary sigh of relief, it remains to be seen how many EU citizens are still in wait-and-see mode before the negotiations have been resolved. The outcome of the government’s post-Brexit EU immigration policy could become a significant factor in deterring some EU nationals from coming to the UK, especially if the axe falls particularly hard on low-skilled roles.”

ONS and UK Home Office: Reports on international students in the UK

Two complementary reports released by the ONS and Home Office cast doubt over previous estimates of international students who remain in the UK once their studies are completed, contrary to previous suggestions that tens of thousands stay illegally. The Home Office paper on “exit checks” data found 176,317 of the 181, 024 international students from outside the European Economic Area left without overstaying their visas.In response, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has ordered the Migration Advisory Committee - the government independent panel of experts - to conduct an investigation into the impact of international students on the UK society and the nation's economy."There is no limit to the number of genuine international students who can come to the UK to study and the fact that we remain the second most popular global destination for those seeking higher education is something to be proud of," she said."We understand how important students from around the world are to our higher education sector, which is a key export for our country, and that's why we want to have a robust and independent evidence base of their value and the impact they have."Neil Carberry, managing director for people and infrastructure at the Confederation of British Industry, commented, “Being open to students and skilled workers from around the world is important for the success of the UK. Higher education is a key sector of our economy - one where we are truly world-leading.“We strongly welcome the government’s move to build on the existing evidence, highlighting the important economic contribution made by international students to the university sector overall, to businesses and to the communities where they are based.“Ensuring universities are open to talent from around the world also enriches the learning environment for UK students. Business stands ready to help the Migration Advisory Committee with its work as the UK government forms a new immigration system that recognises public concerns while meeting the UK’s economic needs.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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