Whilst the overall trend in net migration remains broadly stable, EU net migration has decreased since mid-2016 following a period of increase, and non-EU net migration has gradually been increasing since 2013. However, both EU and non-EU citizens continue to add to the population, while more British citizens leave long-term than return.
There are many reasons why people ‘come and go’. There were nearly 3.0 million visas granted for the UK in the year ending March 2019, a 9% increase of 252,338 compared with the previous year, continuing the upward trend seen over the last decade. Of these, 77% were to visit, 8% were to study (excluding short-term study), 6% were to work and 2% were for family reasons.
[Source of data, see note 1].
94% of Devon (County Council area) residents were born in the UK. It is worth noting that almost half of people living in Britain but born abroad are British citizens due to the legacy of British colonialism and military postings abroad.
Exeter has the highest proportion of foreign born residents (13,014, 30.5% of all foreign born Devon CC area residents and 11% of all Exeter residents). Children under the age of four made up 22.7% of foreign born Devon CC area residents, 16.7% were aged 20 to 24 and adults aged 30 to 44 made up 14.7%.
[Source: ONS 2011 Census].
Are migrants ‘stealing our jobs’?
Migrants tend to take jobs locals don’t want to do especially in agriculture, food production and social care. Many are over-qualified for this work. Some foreign workers take up highly-skilled jobs such as computer specialists and health professionals and plug skills shortages. Migrants tend to raise productivity levels as they have skills, high motivation and fresh ideas. 17.2% of migrants set up their own firms compared with 10.4% of UK nationals [Source: note 1].
Asylum seekers cannot work by law and can receive just £36.95 per week in benefits. They are not entitled to social housing. In February 2019 there were 344 Asylum Seekers in Plymouth [Source: 2]. 0.2% of the population are refugees, asylum seekers or stateless persons [Source: 3].
Do migrants come here to claim our generous benefits?
1% of migrants claim out of work benefits, compared to 4% of UK nationals. 30,000 Britons have claimed more generous benefits in the EU: The UK does not have a generous benefit system compared to other EU countries. Germans, for example, in paid employment for at least a year before, received unemployment benefit worth 60% of their net salary for a year and 67% for a family [Source: 4]. European migrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they have received in benefits [Source: 5].
Do migrants ‘steal our houses’?
Migrants are often blamed for housing shortages. Yet there are 200,000 longer term vacant dwellings in England and over 610,000 empty homes. There is twice as much land given up to golf courses as for houses Source: 6]. Much of the south west region’s accommodation is designated for tourism, but also many empty properties during the winter months are due to local people spending time abroad in countries such as Spain and France.
60% of housing growth has been triggered by natural population growth, ageing and life events such as divorce, rather than from people moving into the region. A key reason for population growth is that people are living longer. The south west has the oldest population of any region in the UK. Britain’s housing crisis is mainly caused by the lack of house building due to skills shortages and the mass sale of council homes.
Are we over-crowded?
In the south west there are 233 people per square kilometer, compared with 427 people per sq km in England [Source: 7] and 276 for the UK as a whole. In August 2019, the UK was recorded 49th most densely population nation in the world, with Macau (China) being the most crowded with 21,055 people per sq km:
Sources of data:
Thanks to TUC southwest publication Let’s Talk About People, May 2019. The booklet can be ordered from the TUC southwest at 15p per copy (for up to 5,000) or 10p per copy (for 5,000 to 10,000).
(1) ONS Migration Statistics 2019
(2) South West Migrant Forum February 2019
(3) British Refugee Council
(4) European Commission, JCP, Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London 2014.
(5) MAC report 2001
(6) Guardian September 2018
(7) ONS 2018