Most of us understand why immigration happens. It is easy to appreciate someone wanting a better life for themselves or their family. This motivation has driven migration for centuries and has contributed to the success of many developed countries in today’s globally open economy.
So why is immigration now such an issue? After reviewing the data surrounding immigration one thing becomes obvious. The scale has changed very quickly. The trickle has turned into a steady flow.
Net Migration Has Increased by 600%
In 1997 the net migration to the UK was 47,000 people. This is the sum of the total migrants arriving minus the total leaving. In just ten years the net migration rose to 273,000. 2014 brought a net of 332,000 new faces to the UK.
With net migration totals continuing to climb at staggering rates, it is natural to wonder when the seams will burst. This influx of people has resulted in strains on public services, infrastructure, and created a need for rapid integration. With no end in sight, systemic collapse would seem likely.
Rapid Gains Create Gaps in Infrastructure Coverage
But fear should not drive policy. Rather, facts should inform how the UK will react to this challenge. Infrastructure has always expanded to meet the increased need. But, it does take time to catch up. In the short-term there will be a gap. However, eventually thoughtful planning should overcome any shortfalls and restore services to previous levels.
This will not be an easy task. With a net migration of only 265,000, the target chosen by the Office of National Statistics, the population of the UK will increase by 500,000 annually. This means a city the size of Liverpool will be added every year. Un-managed, this growth is unsustainable. It will take careful planning and hard policy decisions to mitigate.
As the world’s population shifts to take advantage of better opportunities, developed countries will be forced to construct immigration policies based on their own needs. Hard decisions will need to be made to arrest the current trend and ensure sustainability and prosperity for all.