UK net migration hits record high of 606,000 despite government pledges


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UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman attends the weekly government cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on May 23, 2023 in London, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. net migration hit a record high of 606,000 in 2022, despite government pledges to reduce the figure.

Figures published Thursday by the country’s national statistics office showed that non-EU nationals accounted for 925,000 long-term arrivals, while 151,000 were from the Europan Union.

Reducing net migration was a pledge in the ruling Conservative party’s election manifesto in 2019, when the figure was 226,000. The previous figures, out in November, showed net migration was at 504,000 in the year to June.

The government has stressed that many recent arrivals are refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. The proportion of people arriving via humanitarian routes increased from 9% to 19% in 2022, compared to the year before.

Legal migration is a contentious issue within the Conservative party. It comes as the government seeks to boost tepid economic growth and ease tightness in the labor market, which is causing challenges for businesses and driving up wages at a time of sky-high inflation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants net migration below 500,000, around the level it was when he took office last fall.

However, he has clashed with his more hardline interior minister, Suella Braverman, over some proposed measures to bring down the numbers. Sunak has also stressed that migrant workers are essential to sectors including the National Health Service.

In a speech earlier this month, Braverman said: “It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, service, and community relations.” She also said Britons should be filling job roles experiencing shortages, such as lorry drivers, butchers and fruit pickers.

New restrictions

‘Unfit for purpose’

However, workers in many sectors say they are struggling with recruitment challenges that have been exacerbated by Brexit.

Raj Sehgal, chief executive of Norfolk-based care home group Armscare, told CNBC that vacancies in the sector were at record highs over the last year with over 165,000 posts available, combined with a growing need for services and post-Covid burnout.

It is difficult to attract young domestic workers to the rural areas where many care homes are located, he said, and Brexit and the weaker pound have reduced the U.K.’s appeal to EU workers.

“The whole process of employing a migrant worker is completely unfit for purpose, being detrimental to employers who are looking to grow and expand the economy,” Sehgal said.

“It’s complicated and costly…for the worker it requires a lengthy and complex process of getting a sponsor, and for employers there is the cost burden, such as an immigration skills surcharge that acts as more than a tax on employment.”

CNBC has asked the Home Office for comment on the new figures.



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