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UK to become more ethnically diverse

Immigration is a subject that has frequently been debated in Parliament and the UK media, and many research studies have been commissioned to investigate the scale and impact of immigration across the country.

Despite the level of interest, it is apparent that the issues posed by immigration are long-term in nature, and the challenge will be for Government to manage these issues in the most effective way to achieve the best results for both the UK and the people that want to live here.

Latest immigration figures

The latest figures on immigration from the Office for National Statistics show that there has been a decrease in the overall net flow of migrants to the UK. For the year ending March 2012, there was a net flow of 183,000 into the UK, which is a drop from the net flow of 242,000 experienced in the previous year.

This drop is partly caused by the significant decrease in the numbers of people arriving to study in the UK. Around 213,000 migrants arrived to study in the year to March 2012; lower than the 232,000 who came in the previous year.

The figures also show a fall in the number of immigrants coming to the UK for work-related reasons.

Improvements in integration

The ethnic composition of immigrants to the UK and how well these immigrants are integrated into society has recently come under the spotlight.

A study by researchers at the University of Leeds estimates that in 40 years’ time the UK will be a more diverse but better integrated society. Around a fifth of the population will made up of ethnic minorities, but these will no longer be concentrated in the big cities, and instead will be more spread out across the country.

“At a regional level, the ethnic minorities will shift out of deprived inner city areas to the suburbs and surrounding towns,” explained Professor Philip Rees, from the University’s School of Geography.

“This echoes the way that white groups have migrated in the past with the growth of the middle classes. In particular the Black and Asian populations of affluent local authorities will increase significantly,” he said.

Sustained growth of ethnic minority groups

The study set out to analyse the impact that immigration from and emigration to other countries is having on the size and structure of the UK population at a local level. It also looked at how the local ethnic population is likely to change over the next 40 years.

It found that there is likely to be a sustained period of growth of ethnic minority groups between 2001 and 2051. This will be driven by demographic factors such as:

  • future fertility and mortality rates,
  • immigration and emigration flows, and
  • migration between local authorities within the UK.

The research report projects that by 2051:

  • The UK population could reach almost 78 million (from 59 million in 2001).
  • The ethnic minority share of the population will increase from 8% (2001) to 20%.
  • The White British, White Irish and Black Caribbean groups will experience the slowest growth.
  • The Other White (originating in Europe, Australasia and the USA), Mixed groups and Other Ethnic groups (from outside South Asia and Africa) will experience the largest growth.
  • Ethnic minorities will disperse to more affluent areas and be significantly less segregated from the rest of the population.

Reasons for growth

According to the study, the main factor driving the expected growth of the Other White group is immigration from within Europe.

The study also predicted growth in the size of traditional immigrant groups from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which will be caused by further immigration and also by the fact that these groups have young age structures.

Current UK immigration policies

The study claims that the future ethnic makeup of the UK population is unlikely to be greatly influenced by the Government’s current immigration policies.

“The points system that selects skilled migrants applies only to a minority of migration flows and does not affect migration from other EU states, and entry by refugees and asylum seekers. In 2051 the UK will have a larger and more ethnically diverse population,” said Professor Rees.

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