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The state of UK migration statistics and research

John Salt in Home Office discussions

The state of UK migration statistics and research

On December 6th Professor John Salt was discussant at a joint Home Office/Royal Statistical Society meeting on UK international migration statistics. There were two papers, one from the Home Office - “Enhancing Home Office Statistics on UK Migration Control” – and one from the ONS – “Developments in the Measuring and Reporting of International Migration Statistics”.

John acknowledged that the Office of National Statistics and Inter-Departmental  Migration Statistics Improvement Programme had significantly enhanced the quality, quantity and accessibility of UK migration statistics compared with a few years ago. There were still major problems, however, ­­ including:

  • the small sample size of the International Passenger Survey data source;
  • continuing shortages of emigration data;
  • the patchiness of local area data;
  • over optimism about the potential contribution of e-borders statistics.

In the longer term, the only step change that could improve the statistics would be the development of a population register, as in many other European countries.

On 12th December John also chaired a discussion at a Home Office European Migration Network seminar on research priorities relating to intra-EU migration. Among the issues requiring further evidence were:

  • the real role for government in managing migration;
  • the role of universities in a knowledge economy;
  • how successful are immigrant entrepreneurs?
  • the need for more micro analysis of the experiences of migrants;
  • the key role of London in the UK migration system;
  • the need for more research on the less skilled in the labour market;
  • the role of both large and small employers in recruiting and moving migrants.


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