Sociological Perspectives on Increasing Immigration to the UK

This post looks at the recent increase in net migration to the UK, and at some of the reasons for increasing immigration in particular, including push and pull factors. It also looks at some of the consequences of increasing migration and the relationship between globalisation and migration. 

Recent Patterns of Migration to the UK

The Office for National Statistics Net migration was actually negative during the 1970s and early 1980s, turning positive but at a relatively low level during the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1994, it has been positive every year and rose sharply after 1997.

migration to the UK

During the 2000s, net migration increased further, partly as a result of immigration of citizens from the countries that have joined the EU since 2004. Since the mid 2000s, annual net migration has fluctuated between approximately 150,000 and 300,000.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that net migration stood at 336,000 in the year ending June 2015. This is up from 254,000 in the year ending June 2014. This is a statistically significant increase.

Why are people immigrating to the UK?

The most common reason for migrating to the UK is work. This has been the case historically, with the exception of 2009 to 2012, when formal study was the most common main reason for migration.

In the year ending June 2015, a total of 294,000 immigrated for work-related reasons. This is a statistically significant increase from the previous year when 241,000 people immigrated for work-related reasons. Of those immigrating for work-related reasons in the year ending June 2015, 64% (187,000) came with a definite job to go to and 36% (107,000) came to look for work.

There were increases in immigration for work among EU citizens and non-EU citizens. Provisional estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) show that 58% (162,000) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens), which was not a statistically significant increase and 24% (67,000) were non-EU citizens, also not a statistically significant increase from the previous year. The majority of other sources also show that immigration for work has increased over the last year for both EU and non-EU citizens.

The second most common reason for immigrating to the UK was formal study. In the year ending June 2015, a total of 192,000 people immigrated to the UK for formal study. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (131,000 or 71%) were non-EU citizens while 47,000 (24%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).

In the year ending June 2015, a total of 80,000 people arrived in the UK to accompany or join others,this remains relatively unchanged from 82,000 the previous year. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (45,000 or 58%) were non-EU citizens while 23,000 (30%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).

Where are people Emigrating from? 

migrants to the UK

Immigration to the UK

 Refugees and Asylum Seekers Coming to the UK 

Migrants to Britain hoping to gain citizenship must get 75 per cent or more on the Life in the UK test, which was recently revamped to incorporate “British values” (whatever they are).

A survey has found that most young Britons would actually fail the test, however, which probably has Ukip supporters feeling very confused indeed.Try for yourself and see if you can pass!

The British Red Cross notes that far fewer people come to the UK to apply for asylum than you might think.

More than 50 million people throughout the world were forced to flee their homes last year. There are more than 13 million refugees worldwide – but developing countries host over 80% of people.

There are an estimated 126,000 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.19% of the total population (64.1 million people).

How many asylum seekers came to the UK in 2014?

The UK received 31,400 asylum applications. This was less than Germany (166,800), France (63,100), Italy (56,300) and Sweden (81,300). Just 41%of people applying for an initial decision were granted asylum and allowed to stay. Many are initially refused because it is difficult to provide the evidence needed to meet the strict criteria of a refugee.

Which countries do asylum seekers come from?

More than half of the world’s refugees (52%) came from just five countries in 2014:

  • Syria: 3 million
  • Afghanistan: 2.7 million
  • Somalia: 1.1 million
  • Sudan: 670,000
  • South Sudan: 508,000

What do the terms mean? 

Asylum seeker

  • flees their homeland
  • arrives in another country , whichever way they can
  • makes themselves known to the authorities
  • submits an asylum application
  • has a legal right to stay in the country while awaiting a decision.

Refugee

  • has proven to the authorities that they would be at risk if returned to their home country
  • has had their claim for asylum accepted by the government
  • can now stay here either long-term or indefinitely.

Refused asylum seeker

  • has been unable to prove that they would face persecution back home
  • has been denied protection by the authorities
  • must now leave the country, unless they wish to appeal the decision or there are legitimate reasons why they cannot yet return home.

Economic migrant

  • has moved to another country to work
  • could be legally or illegally resident, depending on how they entered the country
  • may or may not have a legal work permit.

Sources: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, Oct to Dec 2014; UNHCR mid-year report 2014; Office for National Statistics (mid 2013).

 

The Causes of Increasing Migration to the UK

The simplest level of analysis lies in explaining increasing migration to the UK in terms of push and pull factors:

Push Factors refer to problems which encourage a person to leave or emigrate from their country

Pull Factors refer to the real or perceived benefits of another country which attract people to it, or migrate towards it

You should be able to identify a number of  push and pull factors from the material above note down at least two push and pull factors which repel people from other countries and attract them towards the UK.

Increasing globalisation is also fundamentally linked to globalisation, which is covered below. 

The Consequences of Increasing Migration for Family Life 

The impact of migration on UK population structure

There are three main effects:

  1. Population size is increasing because net migration is increasing. If it were not for high net migration the UK population would be shrinking due to low birth rates, which on their own are below the fertility rate required to replace the population, which is 2.1. babies per woman.
  2. The age structure changes. Immigration lowers that average age of the population both directly and indirectly. Directly because immigrants tend to be younger by 10 years than the British born population. Indirectly because Immigrant women have a higher fertility ratio – they have more babies than British born women.
  3. The dependency ratio. Here immigration has three effects:
  • Immigrants are more likely to be of working age and this thus helps lower the dependency ratio.
  • However because they are younger, immigrants have more children and so the immigrants’ children add to the dependent population.
  • Finally, the longer a group is settled in the country, the closer their fertility rate comes to the national average, reducing their distinct impact on the dependency ratio.

Impacts on Public Services..

It is not possible to say with certainty what the implications of migration are for public services, and these impacts are likely to vary by area and depending on the type of public service. Migrants contribute to demand for public services. If foreign-born people in the UK used public services in the same way as demographically similar UK-born people, they would be expected to make less use of health and social care, but greater use of education. Migrants also contribute to financing and providing public services, and are over represented in the health care and social care work forces.

The Political Impact of Globalisation 

States now have policies that seek to control immigration, absorb migrants into society and deal with increased ethnic and cultural diversity. More recently policies have also become linked to national security and anti-terrorism policies.

Assimilationism was the first state policy approach to immigration. It aimed to encourage immigrants to adopt the language, values and customs of the host culture, to become ‘like us’. However assimilationist policies have mainly failed because of the desire of many migrants to retain aspects of their ‘culture of origin’.

Multiculturalism accepts that migrants may wish to retain a separate cultural identity. One consequence of multicultural policy is the emergence of multicultural education in schools. However,Eriksen criticises such education as encouraging ‘shallow diversity’ – so we accept the surface elements of other cultures such as Samosas and Saris, but it fails to address issues surrounding ‘deep diversity’ such as arranged marriages.

Since September 11th many politicians have demanded a return to assimilationsim

Two further consequences include –

  • A More Multicultural Society
  • A divided working class and the white working class backlash.

 

Globalisation and migration

A final aspect of this topic you need to know about is Globalisation and Migration…

Globalisationis the idea that barriers between societies are disappearing and people are becoming increasingly interconnected across national boundaries.

Globalisation is the result of many processes including the growth of communication systems and global media, the creation of global markets, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the expansion of the European Union.

Many see globalisation as producing rapid social changes. One such change is increased international migration – the movement of people across borders. We can identify several trends in global migration.

Acceleration

There has been a speeding up of the rate of migration. For example according to the United Nations between 2000 and 2013 international migration increase by 33%, to reach 232 million, or 3.2% of the world’s population. In the same year, almost a million people either entered or left the UK.

Differentiation 

There are many types of migrant. These include permanent settlers, temporary workers, spouses or forced migrants such as refugees. Before the 1990s immigration to the UK came from a narrow range of former British colonies and these migrants tended to form a small number of stable, geographically concentrated and homogeneous ethnic communities.

However, since the 1990s globalisation has led to what Steven Vertovec (2007) has called super-diversity: even within a single ethnic group individuals may differ in terms of their legal status, culture or religion and be widely dispersed throughout the UK.

There are also class differences among migrants. Robin Cohen (2006) distinguishes three types of migrant:

  • Citizens-with full citizenship rights such as voting rights
  • Denizens– who are privileged people welcomed by the state – such as billionaire ‘oligarchs’ or highly paid employees of Transnational companies
  • Helots– the most exploited group – states and employers regard them as disposable units of labour power, a reserve army of labour. They are found in unskilled, poorly paid work and include illegally trafficked workers and legal workers such as domestic servants.

The Feminisation of migration

Almost half of all global migrants are female and the types of job they do tend to fit patriarchal stereotypes such that there is a global gendered division of labour.

Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild (2003) observe that care work, domestic work and sex work in the UK is increasingly done by women from poor countries. This is a result of western women increasingly joining the labour force and the failure of the state to provide adequate child care.

The resulting gap has been filled by women from poor countries. For example, 40% of adult care nurses in the UK are migrants and most of these are female.

There is also a global transfer of women’s emotional labour. For example, migrant nannies provide care and affection for their employers’ children at the expense of their own children left behind in their home country.

Migrant women also enter western countries as ‘mail order brides’ and some as the victims of sex-trafficking.

Transnational Identities

According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen(2007), globalisation has created more diverse migration patters, with back and forth movements of people through networks rather than permanent settlement in another country.

This results in such migrants being less likely to see themselves as belonging to one culture or another and instead they may develop transnational neither/ nor identities and loyalties. The globalised economy means that economic migrants may have more links to other migrants than to their country of origin or the country they are currently settled in. Such migrants are less likely to want to assimilate into the ‘host country’.

Sources used to write the above include information from the ONS, British Red Cross and Rob Webb et al’s  AS level Sociology book for the AQA.

 

 

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2 Responses to Sociological Perspectives on Increasing Immigration to the UK

  1. Pingback: Don’t Fall in Love with a Foreigner, at least if you’re poor. | ReviseSociology

  2. Pingback: Analyse two ways in which migration has affected household structures (10) | ReviseSociology

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