Demand for health and social care workers driving increase in immigration, LSE experts

Net migration is at a record high, but this is not only due to an increase of people arriving, but partly due to low emigration rates.
- Tessa Hall

More than three-quarters of immigrants to the UK last year were workers and their dependents or students and their dependents, an election briefing from LSE shows.

The “safe and legal” routes for those seeking refuge (largely from Afghanistan, Ukraine and Hong Kong) also underwent unprecedented expansion in 2021-2023. And together these factors have meant immigration has risen to historic highs recently, say researchers from the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP).

The CEP election analysis Immigration points out that the percentage of the UK population born abroad is rising, but is very similar to comparable countries such as France and Spain.

Authors Alan Manning, co-director of the CEP’s community wellbeing programme, and Tessa Hall, researcher at CEP, also analyse figures up to 2023 and find:

  • The biggest migrant groups are from South Asia and Europe.
  • More than two in five immigrants are in the UK as workers or their dependents – this is being driven by demand for health and social care workers.
  • There has been a big rise in international students and their dependants, due to the changing profile of students (who are more likely to be postgraduates).
  • The rise in students may have been due to the UK’s relatively open approach during Covid-19 compared to other English-speaking countries such as Australia or the United States.
  • Emigration largely follows immigration, as most migrants come to the UK for periods of only a few years. Net migration is likely to fall as the number of migrants leaving the UK rises.

 Tessa Hall, co-author, said: “Net migration is at a record high, but this is not only due to an increase of people arriving, but partly due to low emigration rates – people leaving the country – during and after the pandemic. The number of migrants leaving the UK is likely to increase in the coming years, bringing these net migration figures down”.

Professor Manning said: “Neither the costs nor the benefits of migration are as large as supporters and opponents of migration generally claim. The mix of immigrants is crucial when assessing economic impact. Whether migrants are working, what skills and qualifications they bring, and how long they stay in the UK are key factors.”

The briefing describes what we know about migration in the UK, explains the historically high migration rates, compares the characteristics of the migrants to the UK-born population, summarises public opinion on immigration, discusses the impact of migrants on various social and economic issues.

The full report is available here: CEP Election analysis: Immigration