Recent analysis shows a likely shift in the UK's net migration figures, hinting at a return to pre-Brexit levels. The record net migration of 606,000 in the year to June 2022 has raised eyebrows, with Rishi Sunak expressing a desire to lower these numbers. Various factors contributed to this increase, including special visa schemes for refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong, alongside a rise in student and work visas.
Experts believe some of these factors will naturally unwind in the upcoming years. For instance, many students will return home after their studies, which typically last two or three years. The report also talks about a lag between high immigration and high emigration, suggesting that a significant number of people will leave the UK in the next few years, even if the number of arrivals remains high.
By 2030, the net migration is projected to fall between 250,000 and 350,000, still holding at pre-Brexit levels but significantly lower than the recent figures. This forecast takes into account various elements like the stay rates of different migrant groups and the likely decrease in arrivals from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
This scenario raises questions about the effectiveness of immigration policies aimed at reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands”, a target that has been elusive so far. The Conservative leaders have faced challenges in controlling net migration numbers despite various pledges.
The trend of people coming to the UK for work, especially in the health and social care sector, has been a key driver of the increase in net migration. The government's new workforce plan for the NHS aims to reduce reliance on overseas workers by training more UK recruits, but this is a long-term solution and may take years to impact the migration figures.
The interplay between government policies, global crises, and the inherent lag between immigration and emigration reveals the complex dynamics of net migration in the UK. As policymakers grapple with these challenges, the unfolding scenario will likely fuel further discussions on the UK's immigration policies and their implications on the socio-economic landscape.