immigration

No one knows how many Chinese people live in Europe.

The United Nations estimated Europe’s China-born population at 886,882 in 2010, its most recent count, while Chinese-based social scientists put it somewhere between 2m and 3m.

Why, in the age of big data, is there so much uncertainty where our neighbours are from? 

Ukip leader Nigel Farage (left) and Conservative MP for Clacton-on-Sea Douglas Carswell who has announced he is defecting to the eurosceptic party

A “seaside strategy” is being deployed by the UK Independence party in the run-up to next year’s general election which will see the eurosceptic party target seven seats in faded coastal areas of the UK.

Of the leaked list of 12“most wanted” seats where Ukip will concentrate its campaigning, half include seaside resorts, including South Thanet – where party leader Nigel Farage is standing – plus Skegness and Great Yarmouth. The addition of Clacton-on-Sea, whose Tory MP Douglas Carswell announced his surprise defection to Ukip last week, makes seven.

All seven constituencies produced impressive victories for the Conservative party in the 2010 general election – on average, the Tories achieved a 23 per cent majority and a 49 per cent share of the vote. Where Ukip fielded a candidate, its average share was just 6.3 per cent.

However, the deprived demographics of Britain’s coastal towns mean that Ukip is finding increasing support beside the seaside. Fast forward four years, and the eurosceptic party took the greatest share of the vote in May’s European elections in all seven of the seaside towns where it has pledged to fight the Tories on the beaches. 

Kate Allen

It’s the big demographic story you haven’t even heard of – or is it?

Since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in May 2010, British people have been leaving the country in droves.

The number of British emigrants has risen from 128,000 to 154,000 in the past three years, while those returning to Britain has fallen from 96,000 to 79,000. The consequence is that British net migration has more than doubled.

British migration

But hold fire – all is not what it seems.

The change in emigration numbers is within the margin of error – it’s not statistically significant. In layman’s terms, that means the variations are random noise, not a meaningful change.

Let this be a clear warning: you may not know what you think you know. 

For all the antipathy that migrants are generating in Europe, a look at the numbers suggests they may be sorely needed. In much of the European Union, migrants are filling the ranks of the working age population, particularly in countries where the number of those aged 20 to 64 has been falling as a percentage of the total population.

Moreover, the data show a persistent pattern: migrants, as a percentage of population, are highest at the youngest working ages, peaking in most countries at 30 to 35 and falling thereafter. 

Today’s OECD International Migration Outlook takes a comprehensive look at the fiscal impact of immigration, but also has some interesting numbers on destination and origin countries.

Britain has been the destination of choice for immigrants from OECD nations in the past five years, but tiny Belgium is not far behind. Also Germany, where unemployment is now lower than it was before the financial crisis hit in 2008, is a close third choice.

Outflows of population, predictably are largest from countries with the highest unemployment rates, OECD data show.

OECD 1 

Kate Allen

London is widely known for being a city of immigrants – famously, a third of its residents were born abroad. It’s not quite so well-known as a city of emigrants. But, at least within the UK, that is its role.

According to internal migration data recently released by the Office for National Statistics, London sees by far the greatest population loss of all the English regions. 242,000 people moved out of London in 2011. When offset against those moving to the capital, this resulted in a net loss of 40,000 people.

Flow of people