Net migration figures for 2022 increase further

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published revised figures showing that net migration figures for the year ending 2022 were in fact much higher than initially expected.

You may remember our previous article published in June 2023 regarding increases to net migration figures released by the ONS; Net migration figures continue to increase, according to ONS. At this point, the ONS estimated net migration to be at around 606,000, which was an increase of 118,000 on the previous year’s figure. 

Since that article was published, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have recently published revised figures for the same period which show an even greater increase. The ONS has now revised their net migration figure for the year ending 2022 from 606,000 to 745,000, an increase of 139,000. 

The ONS explain there are multiple reasons for the figures being revised and stress that estimates provided are provisional and will be updated as more data becomes available. The data for estimating net migration figures is based on the number of people who arrive in the UK and intend to stay for 12 months or longer and there is not always sufficient information to know whether this is someone’s intention, so figures are naturally subject to change. 

In our previous article, we delved into the categories of migration behind the net figures. The most recent data provided by the ONS continues to show that the largest groups of people from non-EU countries to arrive in the UK were Students and Skilled Workers, particularly those coming to do Health & Care roles for the NHS. 

One of the reasons for the increase in figures is that they have been revised to include students who did not leave the UK after their period of study had finished and have now switched onto work visas, meaning the numbers in these categories increase further.

The new Home Secretary, James Cleverly, comments that increased figures are driven by “important and positive changes" explaining "the biggest drivers of immigration to the UK are students and health care workers - [they] are testament to both our world-leading university sector and our ability to use our immigration system to prioritise the skills we need".[1]

However, whilst the government uses the increasing figures to praise the UK as a leading figure in education and healthcare, they continue to stress that reducing overall net migration is a priority. Mr  Cleverley notes further “we do need to reduce our overall numbers by eliminating the abuse and exploitation of our visa system by both companies and individuals."[2]

Looking forward to future trends, ONS data for the year ending June 2023 shows a net migration figure of 672,000. This shows an increase of 65,000 on the figures from year ending June 2022 (607,000) but a decrease on the latest updated estimate for year ending December 2022 (745,000)[3]. The ONS state that “while it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, these more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration.”

In ours and our clients’ experiences, it is clear that UK employers are still struggling to fill skilled roles within their businesses in numerous sectors and are having to rely on overseas talent to fill such gaps. There has certainly been a rise in sponsored work applications within the Health & Care sector, IT services and Science & Engineering industries, and the current shortage occupation list within the immigration rules reflects this. 

Despite reshuffling within government recently, their commitment to reducing net migration remains clear. The recent increases to visa application fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge also reflects this, however it is positive to see that the Home Secretary does acknowledge the value that overseas talent does bring to UK organisations. Net migration figures will likely be followed closely by government and the media through 2024 as the UK draws closer to the next general election.

 

Resources

  1. UK net migration in 2022 revised upwards to 745,000 - BBC News
  2. UK net migration in 2022 revised upwards to 745,000 - BBC News
  3. Long-term international migration, provisional - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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