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January 2013, Volume 20, Number 1

UK: Migrants

The Conservative-Liberal coalition government in 2010 promised to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to less than 100,000 by 2015. In September 2012, the Parliament approved a motion to take "all necessary steps" to keep the country's population below 70 million. Opinion polls suggest that most British want fewer immigrants: 75 percent say that immigrants make it harder to access public services, and two-thirds believe that the presence of immigrants makes it harder for Britons to get jobs.

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, criticized ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair. He said: "Opening the labor market for immigrants from Central Europe in 2004 was a mistake. Blair was charmed by globalization and he was careless about the costs of such a decision."

In January 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians will acquire freedom of movement rights, meaning that they can move to another EU country and seek work there on an equal basis with local workers. There were 155,000 Bulgarians and Romanians in the UK at the end of 2012, and speculation that their number would increase in 2014, in part because the UK provides relatively easy access to unemployment benefits (but at lower levels than many other EU-15 countries).

Some business groups are criticizing Britain's crackdown on non-EU students, who were allowed two years after graduating to find a job in the UK but now have three months to find a job offering at least L20,000 ($32,000) a year before being required to depart. About 80 percent of foreign students who graduate from UK universities leave within five years, including those from EU countries.

Social Care. Some 1.6 million workers provide care to the elderly and disabled in their homes, and another 5.3 million persons provide unpaid care to the elderly in England. Over 80 percent of care workers are women, and turnover is about 20 percent a year.

About 20 percent of all paid care workers, and two-thirds in greater London, are migrants. Wages are set by cash-strapped local governments that do not want to raise taxes, and the workers most likely to agree to work for what are considered low wages in high-cost London are migrants from Eastern Europe.

Ireland. Ireland assumed the six month rotating presidency of the EU ( in January 2013, marking the country's 40th year in the EU. Ireland has 4.5 million residents, and the highest birth rate among the EU-27 member nations.

Some 123,000 Poles were the largest group of foreigners in Ireland in 2011, followed by 112,000 British citizens, 37,000 Lithuanians, 21,000 Latvians, and 18,000 Nigerians. There are 235,000 foreigners from other countries.