Record fall in net migration since Brexit vote

The UK experienced its largest drop in migration on record, following the Brexit vote. Concerns have been raised of growing difficulty for employers to find unskilled and skilled labour.

Immigration to UK drops significantly
Net migration to the UK fell by more than 100,000 – the largest annual fall on record – in the year after the referendum on EU membership, official data from the Office for National for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

Immigration from EU significantly reduced

The net total of permanent arrivals of 230,000 in the year to June compared to the record 336,230 in the 12 months to June 2016. The sharpest drop was recorded among EU citizens, whose future status in Britain has still not been resolved in Brexit talks.In all, 230,000 EU immigrants arrived in the year to June, compared to 284,000 in the previous 12 months. At the same time, the number of EU citizens emigrating rose by 28,000 to 123,000. But immigration from the rest of the world dropped, too: from 291,000 to 263,000.
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Nicola White, head of migration statistics at the ONS, said, “Overall more people are still coming to live in the UK than are leaving and, therefore, net migration is adding to the UK population.“The first full year of data since the EU referendum vote in 2016 shows a decrease in the number of people coming to live in the UK and an increase in the number leaving, resulting in a fall in net migration of 106,000.“Over three-quarters of the fall in net migration was accounted for by EU citizens. The decline follows historically high levels of immigration and it is too early to say whether this represents a long-term trend.“The number of people immigrating for a definite job has remained stable but there has been a 43 per cent decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, especially for EU citizens.“These changes suggest that Brexit is likely to be a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK - but decisions to migrate are complex and other factors are also going to be influencing the figures.”
UK net migration

Alarm bells for UK economy and employers

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said the sharp fall in net migration “should sound an alarm for the UK economy and employers if the overall trend continues in the months and years ahead” even though the figures showed that the number of EU nationals coming to work – as opposed to those looking for work – remained broadly consistent with the pre-Brexit trend.Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market analyst at the CIPD, said, ”While today’s figures show a strong demand for EU workers in the UK, the decrease in the number of EU citizens coming into the UK, coupled with a large increase in those leaving, suggests that some EU citizens are voting with their feet.“If this tightening continues, employers need to be prepared to deal with more constraints on access to labour in the future. The rising proportion of EU citizens that have a job offer when they come to the live and work in the UK indicates that employers and jobseekers’ attitudes towards free movement of labour are beginning to change, with some clearly taking pro-active steps to offset the uncertainty that the vote has created.“Looking ahead, the data underlines the need for policymakers to conduct a thorough analysis of where genuine skills and labour shortages lie alongside employer efforts to address these shortages.“CIPD research has shown that some employers are still unable to fill unskilled or semi-skilled roles despite their best efforts to recruit local applicants through widening recruitment channels, investing in skills and raising pay, which suggests that future government policy should avoid the dogmatic ‘brightest and best’ approach.  A window of opportunity exists within which employers need to prepare for migration restrictions with a more sophisticated approach to workforce planning and development to avoid future skills gaps or shortages.”
UK net migration by citizenship

Economic slowdown also responsible for drop

Prof Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College, London, said the abrupt drop was partly a result of a slowdown in economic growth and the post-referendum fall in the value of sterling, and partly as a result of the “wider social and political impacts of the Brexit vote”.He added, “Whatever your views on the impact of immigration, it cannot be good news that the UK is a less attractive place to live and work, and that we will be poorer as a result. If the government wants to make Brexit a success, it needs to reverse this. “This means both action now to secure the rights of EU citizens living here, and a clear signal that we will have a liberal and economically sensible immigration policy post-Brexit  - not one that is, as now, driven by arbitrary targets, or that seeks to create a ‘hostile environment’ for those coming here from abroad.”
Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said, “We have been clear we want to attract and retain people who come to our country to work and bring significant benefits to the UK.“With more Europeans continuing to arrive than leave, these figures show that claims of a ‘Brexodus’ are misguided.“At the same time, there is no consent for uncontrolled immigration. We welcome the ongoing decrease in net migration levels and remain committed to bringing them down to sustainable levels, the tens of thousands.“To ensure we have an immigration system that works for everyone, we will continue to reform routes from outside Europe and will negotiate the right deal in the national interest in our Brexit negotiations.”For related news and features, visit our Immigration section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

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