Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Migration

MIGRATION MIGRATION

Migration, as a driver of change, is not just about relocation from one country to another. It covers decisions about where people base themselves, whether nationally or internationally.

Covid-19 has already been and will continue to be a catalyst for movement from big cities to smaller towns and rural locations, prompted largely by the success and benefits of homeworking and a desire for more space. Ease of access to work is no longer the major consideration it once was for many in deciding where to live, while avoiding long commutes or crowded public transport now seems realistic. Retailers and other service providers are being forced to adapt to this domestic migration. City centres will need to reinvent themselves as fewer workers will work there.

This poses many challenges, both for government and employers. The UK housing market has responded to increased demand for homes away from cities (with Paisley in Scotland, Lancaster and Newquay in Cornwall among the fastest-rising house price locations), and rising house prices in rural areas are already pricing out local residents. Moves to towns and the country will impact jobs in city centres while creating new employment opportunities in more rural areas.

As far as international migration is concerned, the end of the Brexit transition period and the curtailing of free movement rights for EU workers has predictably seen a falling-off of migration from the EU to the UK and a reduction in the number of EU nationals living here. Non-EU migration has only partially compensated for this. UK nationals are similarly affected as their rights to work elsewhere in Europe have been removed, leaving a lucky few to exercise their rights to acquire a second EU citizenship to ease travel and work possibilities throughout the EU. Migration was one of the key motivations for “Leave” voters (see globalisation - Brexit).

City, town, country

Move to town and country

One possible long-term consequence of the pandemic is likely to be a permanent shift away from cities to suburbs, towns or rural locations. Reasons for this include not only the ease of remote working, but also an appreciation for space gained during lockdown.

City centres

City centres

Cities like London which saw over 1 million commuters each day pre-pandemic will need a different vision rather than more glitzy office buildings. Jobs serving the lost workers will reduce and force city centres to evolve, perhaps becoming residential centres.

House prices

Data from estate agents, Hamptons, shows the biggest price rises in town and country. April 2021 government data shows biggest annual rises over the last year in the North East (16.9%) and Wales (15.6%) and smallest in the South East (5%) and London (3.3%).

Regional employment

National migration will be influenced not only by remote working but by the location of new jobs. From July 2020 to July 2021 employment rates decreased throughout the UK (other than the East of England) but much less in Wales and the South West.  Current data will be influenced by Covid-19. However, in the longer term, the government’s levelling up agenda may see more jobs created in the North and Midlands.

Cross-border working

Global talent pool

Global talent pool

With increased acceptance of home-working, the pool of prospective employees for employers opens up globally. With it, considerable legal, data privacy, tax and social security issues for employers arise. 

Outsourcing of jobs

Outsourcing of jobs

Another feature of the ease of remote working may well be the increased outsourcing of jobs. The late 20th century saw large scale IT and BPO outsourcing to lower cost locations such as India. Could the service sector now be on the verge of a global gig economy?

Digital nomads

Digital nomads

Increased acceptance of remote working has seen the growth in digital nomads basing themselves in attractive locations whilst working to fund their travels.

Working abroad

Working abroad

Employers are experiencing a big increase in requests from staff to work from other countries often for short periods. Managing this requires a knowledge of the rules on the creation of a permanent establishment as well as immigration, employment law and tax.

EU migration

EU net migration

Unsurprisingly, net migration from the EU fell off a cliff after the 2016 Brexit referendum after rising steeply in the preceding years. A trend which saw non-EU net migration increasing from a low point in 2013 has accelerated in the years up to the pandemic. 

Dual nationals

The number of British citizens acquiring a second EU citizenship annually has doubled. For some employers, such workers, free to travel easily on business and to work across the EU, will be prized.

Job shortages

Job shortages

EU migrants filled a sizeable proportion of jobs in many sectors pre-Brexit including hospitality, agriculture, logistics, care sector and construction. These are now experiencing severe shortages with insufficient skilled domestic workers willing or able to fill their places. 

EU nationals leave the UK

The pandemic saw the numbers of EU nationals in the UK fall significantly. This will have been due both to those without work (unemployed or on furlough) returning to their home country or the impending need to apply for settled status. 

International migration

UK migration

Net migration has remained reasonably stable over the last decade, reducing from a peak in 2015 on account of reduced EU migration following the 2016 Brexit referendum. Longer-term data shows net migration rose sharply to today’s levels at the beginning of the 21st century. 

Attitudes to migration

The UK witnessed dramatic changes in attitudes to migration over the last decade, shifting from a majority of the country considering migration bad for the economy and undermining UK cultural life to a considerable majority being positive about migration on both counts.

Conflicts and climate change

Migrants seeking refuge from conflict, human rights abuses, hostile climates and economic deprivation will continue to feature in the years ahead. Numbers of refugees have gradually increased over recent years with around a third being from Syria. A major source will now be Afghanistan.

International migrants

The number of international migrants globally has increased over the last quarter of a century, though steadied as a proportion of the World’s population over the last decade. The number decreased during 2020 but will rise again as International travel reopens.

MIGRATION - INTERCONNECTING DRIVERS

Technology

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Technology

Role of the State

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Role of the State

Sustainability

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Sustainability

Migration

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Migration

Globalisation

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Globalisation

Covid-19

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Covid-19

Demographics

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Demographics

Part 1 

DRIVERS OF CHANGE

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Part 2 

EMERGING THEMES

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Part 3 

PREDICTIONS

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