90% of population growth in recent years has been driven by immigration


July 27, 2021

  • Immigration has, directly and indirectly, driven population growth of about 7 million since 2001 with serious consequences for achieving an integrated society
  • The ethnic minority share doubled to more than 20% in 20 years

A landmark report by Migration Watch UK (MW492 - Impact of immigration in changing the UK population) draws attention to the wider impact of immigration which has not yet been fully appreciated.

Net foreign migration has been running at about 300,000 per year for the past 20 years and has caused the non-UK born population to double to nine million.

Meanwhile, the ethnic minority population, whether or not born in the UK, has more than doubled to thirteen million, increasing their share of the population from 10% to just over 20% in just twenty years. This figure includes those who identify as 'Other White' (mainly from the EU)

The impact of very high levels of immigration on a country that is already crowded combined with the younger age structure of the ethnic population and, in some cases, higher birth rates has not been fully understood.

Our paper pulls all these factors together, finding that about 90% of population growth between 2017 and 2019 was linked to the impact of arrivals from abroad and their subsequent UK-born children.

These very rapid changes raise issues that go well beyond the previous debate about net migration. Immigrants and their subsequent families have been given the right to be here by the policies of successive governments. They are now an accepted part of our economy and culture. Our concern is the scale and pace of change combined with the failure to achieve the level of integration that is essential to a harmonious society.

We cannot, of course, be sure that immigration will resume at its previous levels once the COVID crisis has subsided but the government’s major post-Brexit loosening of the global visa system makes this very likely. It has sharply reduced both the salary and qualification requirements for a work visa, exposing some seven million UK jobs to new or increased international competition.

The effect is likely to be a significant increase in immigration, especially from the world beyond the EU and with no cap on the numbers. This has not yet been widely understood. Indeed, recent polling suggests that 50% of the public are assuming that the new immigration regime will fulfil the government’s promises to reduce immigration.

However, if the very high levels of immigration witnessed between 2001 and 2020 were to be allowed to resume (or even be surpassed) we would see the continuation and perhaps acceleration of radical changes in our society. Scale is an important factor in the outcome and informed public consent is absolutely essential.

Unfortunately, there has been no clear Parliamentary or public approval for continued immigration on the recent scale. As a result it could become very difficult to maintain the social cohesion that is essential for a successful society.

Migration Watch UK will be producing a series of further papers on the key aspects of the crossroads that we now face. These papers will examine the impact of immigration in more depth and recommend how the present unsustainably high level should be reduced.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

We can no longer duck the longer-term consequences of very high levels of immigration which have taken place without the public’s consent. The British people will be deeply concerned when they realise the sheer scale of the changes and their impact on prospects for achieving a harmonious and integrated society.

Notes to Editors

Migration Watch UK’s Track Record

Migration Watch UK, which has been analysing the topic of immigration for two decades, has a very strong track record on making estimates:

  1. In 2002, we estimated that non-EU net migration would run at two million over the following decade, including a small allowance for illegal immigration. At the time our projections were met with howls of derision, indeed sometimes abuse. The ONS later estimated that legal non-EU net migration in the period 2002-2011 was 2.1 million.
  2. In 2003, Home Office-commissioned research found that there would be between 5,000 and 13,000 EU8 arrivals annually following the 2004 EU enlargement. We described these estimates as ‘almost worthless’ and suggested that a higher figure was more likely. In the event EU8 net migration averaged 72,000 per year (including an undercount identified by the 2011 Census).
  3. In 2010, we estimated the illegal migrant population present in the UK to be just overa million. Other estimates of a million or more were subsequently issued by former senior Home Office personnel, including by a former head of the UK Border Agency and a former Director-General of Immigration Enforcement. Pew Research subsequently calculated that there were between 800,000 and 1.3 million unauthorised migrants here between 2014 and 2017, an estimate which was recently referenced by the Financial Times. The centre of this range is just over a million.
  4. In 2013, we estimated that inflows from Romania and Bulgaria would add at least 50,000 a year to the population. A Channel 4 News Fact Check said in May 2014: “Predictions of a mass influx of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania have failed to come true.” In fact, the latest ONS analysis of net migration levels from these countries (based on their new administrative-data base estimates) suggests that net migration from these EU2 countries may have run at double this level between 2014 and 2020. Under the ONS’s previous LTIM method for estimating migration net arrivals from the EU2 countries ran at 44,000 per year during the period 2014-2016.

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