The number of workers in Britain born outside the European Union has surged to a record high of 3.3 million, according to the latest estimates.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures indicate that an influx of 220,000 such workers over the last twelve months helped to drive numbers to their new high, The Times reports.
The total does include some British nationals born abroad and around 80,000 people from the United States, but by far the largest number — just under 1 million — come from Africa, with another 800,000 hailing from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
This means the number of workers in Britain born outside the European Union is now greater than the entire population of Wales — including migrants — and almost twice the population of Northern Ireland.
Combined with the number of EU migrant workers in the country — at a record high of 2.37 million themselves, thanks to an influx from Bulgaria and Romania — the foreign-born worker population is greater even than the population of Scotland, the largest of Britan’s four Home Nations after England.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 14, 2016
An apparent slowdown in the pool of cheap European Union labour in Britain had appeared to yield positive results for native workers up to now. For example, hiring and salary growth in Scotland has been boosted significantly, according to the recent HIS Markit Report on Jobs.
However, industry bodies and lobby groups for employers have voiced a great deal of opposition to the prospect of a reduction in immigration increasing workers’ ability to command higher pay and better conditions.
It seems likely that a significant increase in non-EU workers would successfully wipe out any gains to people in working-class occupations from a reduction in the EU labour pool.
— LEAVE.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) June 21, 2016
Tory governments under both David Cameron and Theresa May have consistently failed to make progress towards repeated manifesto pledges to bring net immigration down from “the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”.
Commentators have rightly pointed out it was never really possible to meet the pledge to long as Britain remained a member of the European Union — supported by both Cameron and May during the 2016 referendum — as its Free Movement of People immigration regime does not allow for the inflow of EU/EEA nationals to be limited in any way.
However, critics have often pointed out that the Tories have failed to bring down the number of non-European migrants in the last seven years as well, despite having the power to do so — a point repeated in the wake of the new statistics on workers born outside the bloc.
“There has never been a year where the number of EU migrants has exceeded the numbers arriving from outside the EU,” noted James Knightley, chief international economist at Dutch investment bank ING.
“The figures suggest that if free movement of EU people ends, we will still have a situation where we get lots of labour from non-EU countries.”
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) May 18, 2017
It should be noted that, in terms of the overall immigration picture, statistics for foreign-born workers do not tell the whole story, as a disproportionate number of migrants do not work at all, and the illegal immigrant population — estimated at around 1.2 million — is not accounted for.