Academic experts conducted an analysis, which anticipates a significant decline in net migration to the UK in the coming years. Nevertheless, they project it to stabilize at around 300K, a level akin to the one before the Brexit referendum.

In the 12 months leading up to June 2022, net migration reached a historic high of 606K, marking a 24% increase compared to the preceding year. In response, Rishi Sunak expressed his concern, stating, “The numbers are excessively high, it’s as straightforward as that, and I aim to reduce them.”

The notable rise can be attributed to various factors, such as the arrival of refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong under special visa programs, as well as significant increases in both student and work visas.

Experts from the Migration Observatory at Oxford University and the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics conducted an assessment and assert that certain factors driving this trend are likely to reverse in the coming years, irrespective of government policies. For example, they anticipate that a substantial number of students will return to their home countries after finishing two or three years of study.

By analyzing the customary “stay rates” for various categories of migrants, the report forecasts a notable surge in emigration, signifying an increase in the number of people departing from the UK.

The report stated, “Increased immigration eventually results in elevated emigration, but this effect is not immediate; there is typically a delay of two to three years. Unless there is a significant shift in emigration patterns from what we’ve seen historically, it’s plausible to anticipate a rise in emigration between now and 2025. This, in turn, will reduce net migration, even if the inflow of people to the UK remains relatively high compared to historical levels.”

Taking into account these stay rates, along with additional considerations like the decrease in arrivals from Ukraine and Hong Kong, the analysis indicates that net migration may potentially decrease to a range of 250K to 350K by the year 2030.

The most likely scenarios all point to a decrease in net migration in the years ahead. However, several diverse factors will influence the outlook, including the proportion of international students transitioning to long-term work visas, the trajectory of work visa numbers, and the outcomes of asylum applications.

Alan Manning – Professor of Economics at LSE

He further remarked, “The inherent unpredictability in these factors makes it exceptionally challenging for policymakers to assure the achievement of a precise level of net migration.”

Conservative leaders, starting with David Cameron and onwards, made repeated commitments to lower net migration to the “tens of thousands,” yet consistently fell short of achieving this goal. In the 2019 manifesto, Boris Johnson omitted this particular promise but pledged to “fix our immigration system,” while also asserting that “overall numbers will come down.” Rishi Sunak has also vowed to “stop the boats” that carry migrants across the English Channel to the UK.

In contrast, net migration has surged significantly, rising from 219K in 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to over 600K in the past year. This has ignited a growing and contentious debate within the Conservative party, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman issuing a recent warning about a “hurricane” of mass migration.

Madeleine Sumption, who works at the Migration Observatory, emphasizes that the primary factor behind the upsurge in net migration has been individuals arriving in the UK for employment, with a notable focus on the healthcare and social care sectors.

A remarkable discovery is that if present patterns persist, work visas appear poised to be the most influential factor in determining the overall net migration figures. Work-related migration, primarily influenced by the health and care industries, will significantly impact future migration trends.

Madeleine Sumption – Works at the Migration Observatory

During the year ending in June 2023, the Home Office granted approximately 78,000 work visas to care and senior care workers, along with just over 35,000 to doctors and nurses. This occurred as the NHS faced challenges in filling numerous job vacancies.

The government’s newly unveiled NHS workforce plan aims to decrease dependence on foreign workers by focusing on the training of more domestic recruits. However, it is expected that this strategy will take several years to yield noticeable results.