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October 2014, Volume 21, Number 4

UK: Migrants

Migration was debated in summer 2014 with an eye to national elections expected in May 2015. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of non-British-born workers in the UK rose by two million, including a million Eastern Europeans. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of foreign-born workers rose by 715,000, almost half of whom were Eastern Europeans. Rising immigration is associated with flat wages.

In the year ending March 2014, net migration into Britain was 243,000, up from 175,000 the year before. Most of this migration was of EU citizens moving to the UK, including 214,000 in the year ending March 2014 and 170,000 the year before. The UK's six percent unemployment rate is lower than the EU's 10 percent rate.

Current PM David Cameron's pledge to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 by 2015 appears unlikely to be kept. As a member of the EU, the British government cannot restrict the entry of EU citizens, many of whom move to greater London from Eastern Europe for higher wages.

Persons not born in the UK were 12 percent of the British population in 2014, including 2.5 million residents who were born in other EU member states (726,000 Poles). A quarter of the 750,000 births a year in the UK are to foreign-born mothers, led by Poles.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in September 2014 released a poll of 1,000 British firms that found most employers preferred foreign workers to fill low-skilled jobs because they were more experienced than local workers seeking these jobs.

Unemployed Eastern Europeans who leave the UK for Poland and other home countries may apply for unemployment insurance benefits after they have reached their countries of citizenship. Under EU rules, East European governments expect the UK government to reimburse them for the cost of UI benefits when jobless workers were last employed in the UK. The European Commission has ordered the UK government to pay Eastern European governments, but Britain counters that the East European workers would not have been eligible for UI benefits if they had remained in the UK.

Ireland. Net emigration from Ireland was about 20,000 in the year to April 2014. Some 82,000 people left Ireland in 2014, including half who were Irish citizens. 61,000 moved to Ireland, including Irish citizens who returned. The main destination of those leaving Ireland was the UK.

The Irish population was 4.6 million in April 2014, including almost 4.1 million Irish citizens. Of the 600,000 foreigners, 115,000 are British, 269,000 are from other EU member states, and 180,000 are from the rest of the world.