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January 2009, Volume 16, Number 1

UK, Ireland

Net immigration added 237,000 people to the UK in 2007, up from 191,000 in 2006; immigration peaked at 244,000 in 2004. Most immigrants who remain in the UK are from outside the EU. Between 2002 and 2007, some 2.5 million foreigners migrated to the UK and 750,000 British left; the British Diaspora is 5.5 million.

Immigration is projected to raise Britain's population from the current 61 million to 68 million by 2031. Most newcomers settle in England, which is set to surpass the Netherlands as the most densely populated country in Europe in 2009.

The surge in immigration occurred under the Labor Party. The opposition Conservative Party, with some support from Labor members of Parliament, has called for an annual cap on immigration. However, the Labor-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research argued that more immigrants could fill jobs related to the Olympics scheduled for 2012 and reduce the severity of the 2008-09 recession.

There were 3.7 million foreign-born workers employed in the UK in the first quarter of 2008, representing 12.5 percent of the 29.5 million total employment. Between September 2006 and September 2008, employment rose from 29.2 to 29.5 million, including an increase of 469,000 in foreign-born workers and a decrease of 149,000 in UK-born workers.

There are 800,000 Poles in the UK. Most are employed in agriculture, construction, and service jobs, some of which are disappearing. Predictions were that at least a quarter of Poles in the UK would leave in 2009.

Tiers. Tiers two and five of the new UK migration system became effective November 27, 2008. Tier 2 non-EU foreigners must have a certificate of sponsorship issued by a UK employer registered with the government, and must obtain at least 70 points under a test that scores individuals on the basis of their English language skills, support funds, and personal attributes, including their education and prospective UK earnings.

Tier five short-term students and temporary workers such as sports and entertainment teams must also have a UK sponsor and score at least 40 points, while Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme foreigners must score 50 points based on sponsorship, age and funds for their maintenance in the UK. About 15 percent of students enrolled in British universities are foreigners.

The British government maintains a labor "shortage list," giving extra points to foreigners arriving to fill jobs in labor-short occupations. In November 2008, the shortage list included occupations with 800,000 jobs. Some British employers complained when their jobs were not included on the shortage list, but the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee that develops the list, David Metcalf, said that "What they [employers] are arguing is that they don't want to hire someone for £8.10 an hour, they want to do it for £6 an hour - but that doesn't [make a job] qualify for the shortage list." Employers said they could not raise wages because of the recession.

Britain raised the age at which foreigners can apply for a marriage visa to enter the country. In an attempt to stop forced weddings and immigration abuse, both partners in marriage must now be at least 21.

The number of Australians applying for British working holiday visas has dropped from 27,000 two years ago to 13,062 in 2008. Many are leaving the UK, citing Australia's improved economy and better weather.

Ireland. Some 840,000 adult foreigners arrived in Ireland between 2002 and 2007, and 423,000 were sill working in Ireland in 2007, according to a Central Statistics Office review of personal public service numbers. Those still working in Ireland included 76,000 migrants working in hotels and restaurants, 51,000 in construction and 55,000 in manufacturing.

Many foreigners from EU-15 countries came in one year and left the next; those from the A8 eastern European countries tended to stay longer in Ireland. A8 nationals are 60 percent of the foreign workers employed in Ireland in 2007, and 80 percent of the foreign workers employed in construction.

The number of Poles in Ireland rose from under 5,000 to 250,000 between 2004 and 2006. Foreigners were 15 percent of the 4.5 million Irish residents in 2008, when the unemployment rate rose and the number of jobs fell. During the boom, construction became 14 percent of GDP, and housing prices in the Dublin area doubled.

For the first time in a decade, Ireland is expected to have net out-migration in 2009, with at least 25,000 more residents leaving than entering. The unemployment rate is expected to approach 10 percent in 2009 as construction grinds to a halt. One survey suggested a third of Poles in Ireland may leave in 2009; 10 percent of the Poles surveyed said they planned to settle in Ireland.

Preliminary data suggested that 100,000 foreigners left Ireland in 2008, more than anticipated. However, over 140,000 new ID numbers were issued to foreigners in the first 10 months of 2008, suggesting that Ireland was still attracting foreigners seeking jobs.

About 12 percent of Irish residents are non-nationals, as are 15 percent of workers in Ireland. About 20 percent of those receiving welfare payments at the end of 2008 were foreigners.

Irish unions demanded more inspections of workplaces with migrants after cases of employers paying migrants less than the minimum wage were uncovered. Unauthorized workers were discovered on fishing boats, in the mushroom industry, and in restaurants.

Paul Cullen, "State admitted 840,000 migrants in 2002-2007," Irish Times, January 9, 2009. Alistair MacDonald, "UK Cuts Immigration as Economy Slows Down," Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2008. Tom Whitehead, "Migrant workers lists includes 800,000 jobs," Telegraph, November 11, 2008.