The policy implications of emigration from the UK

The Policy Implications of Emigration
from the UK: Target and Uncertainty
Dr Carlos Vargas-silva
Emigration – Don’t leave me this way?
British Society for Population Studies
13 May 2013
• The tens of thousands objective
– Objective
– Relation with emigration
• Non-EU emigration
– Different emigration rates
– The net-migration bounce
• British/EU emigration
– The EU shuffle
• All
– The role of uncertainty
The “tens of thousands” objective
• Net-migration = Immigration – Emigration
• PM Cameron has reaffirmed the government's
commitment to reducing net-migration from
the “hundreds of thousands” to the “tens of
Who is included?
• The “target” includes all migrants (i.e. those moving in or
out for at least 12 months):
1) British/EU/Non-EU nationals…
2) workers, students, family, asylum…
3) high skill, med skill, low skill…
• The target includes immigration/emigration of British and
EU nationals whose entry and exit Britain cannot restrict.
• Focus has been on non-EU nationals.
Why including everyone?
• Transparency (e.g. using international definitions).
• Neutrality (e.g. not focused on a specific group).
• Necessity
– IPS emigration data do not allow for calculation of net-migration by categories.
– It does not gather information about the characteristics and purpose of entry
of emigrants at the time of initial arrival.
– e.g. possible for someone to arrive as foreign citizen and leave as UK citizen.
– e.g. migrants arrive in the UK for the purpose of study, but leave for
– ONS introduced a new question to the IPS.
Efforts to reduce net migration are built
• The restriction of three migration routes for
non-EU nationals: work, study and family.
• Boost outflows (i.e. emigration) of non-EU
nationals: changes to settlement policy to
“break the link” between migration and
settlement and “closing” post study work.
Non-EU migration
Today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s
• Reducing inflows (i.e. immigration) to the UK
is also likely to lead to a reduction in future
outflows (i.e. emigration).
• Much of the short-term drop in net-migration
as a result of lower inflows will be fleeting,
because fewer migrants will subsequently
The net-migration Bounce
• The “bounce effect” arises because many of
the migrants currently coming to the UK leave
again after a few years.
• Hypothetical reduction of immigration of 146,000
over 3 years and assuming no more reductions in
the subsequent years.
• Reduction required to hit a target of net 99,000
by 2015, without considering the effects of
reduced emigration.
• Based on baseline net-migration of 245,000
(preliminary estimate for 2011).
Long-term reduction in net is less than
half of the initial reduction
Differences in emigration rates
• Some types of migrants are more likely to
settle in the UK than others.
• This means that reducing the immigration of
groups who are more likely to settle will have
a bigger long-term impact on net migration.
How to split the 146,000 cut?
• MAC suggest that cuts to net migration could
be proportionate to the size of that group in
non-EU inflows (i.e. 60% students, 20% family,
and 20% work).
• This translates to cuts per year of: 29,200 students; 9,700 - family and 9,700 - workers.
Emigration rates?
• Data on emigration are very limited.
• Model outflows of different migrant groups based
on data from a cohort of non-EU migrants that
entered the UK in 2004 (taken from the Home
Office’s original Migrant Journey study).
• Study has been updated since then but no major
• Students, while by far the largest group, are
proportionally unlikely to settle permanently. Much of
the impact of a cut in numbers would evaporate.
• Reducing the number of family migrants coming to the
UK – while smaller in the short term – is proportionally
• The majority of labour migrants also tend to leave,
meaning that cuts to labour immigration will also push
down emigration.
British/EU emigration
British/EU migration “cancel out”?
• The EU shuffle: No need to “worry” about EU
immigration, because this flow “cancels out” with
British emigration.
Long standing argument
• PM Cameron in 2011 “take this question of
Europe. Yes, our borders are open to people
from other member states in the European
Union. But actually, this counts for a small
proportion of overall net migration to the UK.”
• In reference to net-migration of people whose
international movement Britain cannot control
(British and other EU citizens).
The ‘global’ approach
• Focus on citizenship of the migrants only,
without taking their destination or where they
are moving from into account.
• This method analyses the migration flows of
EU citizens to and from the UK regardless of
whether their origin or destination is inside or
outside the EU.
The ‘global’ approach
Missing something important…
• Many British citizens emigrate to non-EU
• It does not reflect the effects of the right to
free movement within the EU on total netmigration in the UK.
The ‘Strictly EU’ approach
• Measures 3 things:
– Balance between the number of British citizens who leave
the UK to take up residence in another EU country, and the
number who return to the UK after having been resident in
another EU country.
– Balance between the number of (non-British) EU citizens
who arrive in the UK to take up residence and the number
who leave the UK for another EU country, after having
been resident here.
– The balance between these two numbers.
‘Strictly EU’ approach
• Both approaches can be valid but they give us
different information.
• If, however, we want to discuss the right to
free movement within the EU, the ‘strictly EU’
approach is more appropriate (still imperfect).
Entries, exists and errors
• The primary data source currently used to
estimate emigration (and net migration) in the
UK is subject to considerable margins of error.
Implication for policy debate
• Available estimates are problematic as a
means to define and precisely measure
progress toward a numerical limit on
• Not necessarily a problem with the survey, but
with the use of the survey.
IPS central estimates and associated
confidence intervals
• The government could miss the “tens of
thousands” target and still appear to have hit it.
• Conversely the government could hit, or even
exceed its target and still appear to have missed
• Efforts to meet the government’s target lack an
adequate measure of success.
More information
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