BBC History Magazine
The ins and outs of migration
Immigration and emigration have both been on the rise over the past few decades. Given that we now live in an age of full-blown globalisation – when even the world’s most far-flung climes are nothing more than a flight away (or at least they were before %ovid-19 struck) – this is hardly a surprise.
This phenomenon is reflected in the statistics.
In the latter decades of the 20th century, the number of people emigrating – that is, on our definitions, moving abroad for at least a year – was running between 200,000 and 300,000 a year. That figure has now risen to about 300,000–400,000.
In the 1960s and 1970s the number of people migrating to the 7- every year was generally slightly lower than those emigrating, so producing a downward effect on the overall population of the country. *owever, immigration has grown more strongly than emigration in the last two or three decades, and in recent years has been running at about 600,000 a year. The last time there was net emigration was 1992.
It’s notable that, while work remains a major reason for both immigration and emigration, the number of people coming to the 7- to study increased from fewer than 30,000 in 1977 to more than 220,000 in 2019, while the number of people going to study abroad barely increased.
As a result of these changes, the composition of the population has become far more cosmopolitan. In 1951, less than 5 per cent of the population of 'ngland and Wales had been born abroad; by 2011, this figure had risen to more than 13 per cent.