Post-war migration and the United Kingdom: evaluating the demographic and workforce consequences (Phase I)

David Coleman and Martin Smith, University of Oxford

[Project number 30001]

Immigration to the UK has recently become a more salient public issue. Regular immigration has risen to the highest level since the 1960s. Asylum seeking has also reached new heights, taking overall inflows to record levels. Illegal immigration and immigrant trafficking has provoked concern. Demographic aspects of migration have been relatively neglected until recently. However net migration is now the dominant component in UK population growth and has increased growth nationally and regionally, an effect magnified by higher fertility rates in the immigrant population. Recent government policy is to re-evaluate immigration in a more positive light, and to encourage its growth for economic purposes, supported by a number of reports from the Home Office.

Evaluating the effects of immigration, and projecting the immigrant and ethnic minority populations, has thus acquired a higher priority. In the absence of explicit, technical population projections it has been difficult to make appropriate comments on recent media speculation. The latest official projections date from 1979. The ONS is currently considering new official projections, but a decision has not yet been made. The level of detail proposed for the projections, especially at sub-national level, suggests that they could not be completed quickly.

The aims of this study include:

  1. reconciling statistics from disparate sources on migration flows and stocks
  2. determining the contribution of migration to/from the UK on population and age-structure
  3. projecting the likely future size and structure of the immigrant / ethnic minority populations, and populations of mixed origin.
  4. past, present and likely future contribution of immigrants to the workforce, and the effect of migration upon dependency and population ageing

Projection will be addressed first, for which estimates of fertility and mortality by ethnic minority status are needed. Direct data on fertility or mortality by ethnic group as opposed to birthplace of mother or the deceased are not available. Indirect estimates from other sources such as the LFS do not easily allow for estimation of trends in vital rates according to duration of residence in the UK and other variables, important in projecting forward vital rates. We hope to be able to use the LS to make such estimates (with other sources). The LS should enable fertility to be specified by ethnic group in the 1991 census and by birthplace in previous censuses back to 1971 (and NCWP status in 1971), along with other key variables.

Top of page