Fewer overseas EU nationals registering for work, says new report

by Dave Hill

The number of workers from other EU nations migrating to London fell substantially in the first part of this year compared with the same period in 2016, according to data compiled by the think tank Centre For London.

Three quarters of a 15% drop in National Insurance number registrations by non-UK nationals during the first three months of 2017 is attributed to a reduction in EU nationals coming to the capital to work, Centre For London says.

The equivalent three months of 2016 were before last June’s referendum, in which UK citizens voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union. The think tank notes that while National Insurance registrations have “fluctuated over the past decade”, the decline is the largest year-on-year since the third quarter of 2015.

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College and a prominent Brexit sceptic, described “the significant fall” as “the first hard data showing that migration for work purposes to the UK is slowing”. He argued that “London will be disproportionately affected, since European workers, at all skills levels, have been hugely important to the growth and dynamism of the London economy over the last two decades”.

A report published earlier this year by London First and PWC found that over 680,000 members of London’s 5.2 million-strong workforce were born in other EU countries, accounting for 30% of those employed in the capital’s construction sector, 30% in its hospitality industries, 15% in its financial sector, 14% in the creative industries along with significant numbers in health, transport and retail and wholesale.

Other figures compiled by Centre For London as part of the first of its London Intelligence bulletins tracking change in the capital show that international migration as a whole fell in 2015/16 compared with 2014/15 – from 133,901 to 126,079 – according to mid-term estimates, though it remained the biggest contributor to London’s continuing population growth.

“Natural change” – the difference between birth rates and death rates – was the other big factor, showing a small year-on-year increase from 78,370 to 81,334. Meanwhile, internal migration – movement in or out of London within the UK – saw an estimated 93,302 people leave the capital, a large increase on the previous year’s 77,535. A net loss of population from London to other parts of the UK compared with incomers from other parts has been a constant feature of the capital’s demographic change patterns for many decades.

Population increase was not evenly spread across Greater London however, with the most significant increases taking place in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking and Dagenham in the east while small falls were recorded in Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Ealing. London’s age profile continued to shift, with the number of 20-34 year-olds falling slightly, while both the 55-59 and 70-74 cohorts rose by around 4%.

Centre For London is a friend of this website. The whole of its first London Intelligence report, which also covers the economy, infrastructure and housing, society and environment and health, can be read here.

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