While these numbers are significant, it’s important to draw attention to the National Insurance registrations, which I believe, show a more accurate level of migration. Last year, there was 824,000 new registrations from migrants, which is 255,000 more than the gross immigration number. The ONS numbers only take into account long term migration, whereas the National Insurance registrations show a more realistic account of both long and short term immigration.
Another statistic to look at is the amount of people that migrated for work. 104,000 people migrated to the UK without a job offer – a figure which would likely to be higher if the report took into account short term migrants as well (those who migrate for less than a year).
The reality of the situation is that the above number is uncontrollable whilst we are members of the European Union. The majority of those migrating without a job, will mostly be low skilled workers, which creates an oversupply in the low skilled sector and depresses wage inflation, a claim supported by Bank of England research in 2015. (2)
Those supportive of these numbers, fail to take a broad view of the impact of mass migration. Looking at migration levels specifically through an economic lens, is far too narrow. High levels of migration and population growth may increase GDP, but that is not a sound argument for uncontrolled, mass migration. Minor GDP growth can be expected as the population grows in number.
It’s critical that we take into account the pressure and fiscal cost on public services and infrastructure (including roads, congestion, water, sewage systems) from mass migration. Between 1995 and 2011, migrants in the UK resulted in an overall fiscal cost of £114bn to the taxpayer, through infrastructure costs and welfare payments. A point concluded in 2014 by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration. (3)
A more accurate indicator of prosperity is GDP per capita, which the ONS has suggested would not improve if net migration was to run at 225,000 per annum. (4)
Current migration levels and an aging population are the two primary factors driving our increasing population growth. The UK has an undeniable issue over housing demand and supply. While the government is making some headway on its housing supply, it will forever be playing catch up if net migration stays at current levels. Migration is controllable, an aging population is not. A responsible government should seek to control the bits that are within its control.
The government announced the proposal of 14 new garden villages, which will create ‘up to 50,000’ new properties. (5) These properties are aimed for first time buyers, under 40. If we made the assumption that the 14 new garden villages will house around 100,000 people (2 people per property), this initiate alone puts net migration levels of 273,000 into perspective.
At current levels, we are taking in a city the size of Newcastle upon Tyne every single year. (6)
As someone who believes mass migration at current levels is unsustainable, I hope the government and successive governments put in place a migration system that takes into account a broad perspective on migration. Attempts not to bring down levels of migration, is not in the public interest and justifying high levels of migration because of an increase in GDP is irresponsible. We need a system tailor-fit to the UK. A system which reduces the number to more sustainable levels but also a system sensitive to the social and cultural impacts of migration also.
Britain is on its way to leaving the European Union, which will give the government of the day full control of the UK’s immigration policy. Those that create and implement our migration policy, will be accountable to all of us, every 5 years through the ballot box. The debate on the level of migration will continue post Brexit for years to come.
The first day as an independent country, outside of the EU will be day zero for a new migration policy.