Net Migration to the UK Reaches Record High

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) yesterday reveal that 2010 was the highest year on record for net migration to the UK. Net migration was 252,000 for 2010. This number is arrived at by taking the difference between immigration at 591,000 and emigration at 339,000. The main reason behind the increase in net migration was a fall in emigration from the UK, whilst the level of immigration has remained fairly constant.

But what do these numbers mean? To many people they appear pretty meaningless. Their experiences of the effects of migration to and from the UK are primarily based on how it impacts their local area. Many people appreciate the diversity and cosmopolitan character that flows of migration have brought to different towns and cities in the UK. TJC Global, based in the heart of Oxford, enjoys the benefits of the rich talent pool of foreign students, many of whom seek employment in the UK after they graduate. It makes Oxford a great place to locally source highly qualified and experienced translators and interpreters from all over the world.

However, many people in the UK have a less positive perception of migration. A recent e-petition organized by Migration Watch UK, calling on the government ‘to take all necessary steps to get immigration down to a level that will stabilise our population as close to the present level as possible’ gained over 100,000 signatures in less than week. Opponents of immigration often argue that immigrants are a drain on public services and that they take jobs away from native workers. This sentiment can be especially strong in times of government cuts and rising unemployment.

But immigrants are often merely scapegoats for deeper economic and societal problems. The National Health Service could not function without its large pool of immigrant labour. A higher percentage of immigrants tend to be of working age, relative to the native UK population as a whole. They are therefore economically productive, paying taxes, increasing aggregate demand and ultimately creating jobs in the UK economy. Many sectors of the British economy are highly dependent on immigrant labour.

Nonetheless, the widespread perception that immigration is ‘out of control’ means that the numbers game is a big deal of the Government. The Conservative Party made a pre-election pledge to reduce net migration from the hundreds-of-thousands to the tens-of-thousands. This has been repeated in recent months by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. Put more clearly this amounts to a commitment to reduce net migration to below 100,000 by 2015. However, given the current net level of 252,000, estimated by the ONS to stay roughly the same in 2011, this target will be very difficult to achieve, regardless of whether it is a good or sensible objective to have.

Migration is not homogenous mass in the manner it is often crudely portrayed in the British media. It can be broken down into categories such as: economic, family, student and refugee. Of course these types often overlap and are by no means discreet. Even as rough categories, they need to be utilized to understand how the government intends to meet its target.

For a start, some forms of migration cannot be controlled by the Government. European Union nationals from all but two of the 27 EU member states are legally entitled to live and work in the UK. Other types can only be restricted to a certain extent. The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates that Government proposals designed to reduce family migration (migrants joining family members who are legally resident in the UK), will only reduce this type of migration by 8,000 per year. That would make little dent in the reduction of 150,000 required for the Government to meet its target. Likewise further restrictions on work based migration are only likely to reduce this type of legal immigration by 11,000 although it will have an impact on takeaways and sheep sheering!

Student migration is the main area where the government can have an impact on reducing net migration. Tougher restrictions are likely to reduce this flow by over 50,000 annually according to the study at Oxford University. However, non-EU foreign students are charged higher fees than their British counterparts and are vital to funding British Universities. During a time of major cuts to higher education, this somewhat begs the question of why this target is a good idea in the first place. Even with this reduction, with the side effect of harming one of the UKs most successful economic sectors, the target of reducing net migration to under 100,000 by 2015 is likely to be missed by at least 65,000, if not more.

At TJC Global we are never inhibited by restrictions on migration as we can source translators and interpreters from all over the world. Being based in the heart of Oxford gives us the advantage of having a large local talent pool of translators and interpreters. Modern technology enables us to simultaneously carry out multiple translation projects with translators and proof-readers based throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. For more information, and for a free quote for either translation or interpreting, please visit our website at

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