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 most recent figures show a stable level of net migration, at around 200 000 to 300 000 per year:

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.

In 2018, the UK received applications for asylum for 37,453 people

The UK is below the European average for asylum applications and ranks 17th among EU countries per head of population.

Asylum seekers were around five per cent of immigrants to the UK in 2018.

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 impact of migration on UK population structure and family life

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.

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.