The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford have produced an updated briefing examining labour migration to the UK, finding that for the first time since 2006, the majority of people migrating to the UK for work in 2019 were non-EU citizens.
In 2019, 170,000 non-British citizens moved to the UK for at least a year to work, according to the Office of National Statistics estimates. This made up 34% of all long-term migration to the UK.
The majority (56% / 95,000) of this cohort were non-EU citizens, as opposed to EU citizens (76,000), the first time this has happened since 2006, when 100,000 non-EU and 83,000 EU citizens moved to the UK for work. Between 2007 and 2019, nearly two-thirds of long-term non-British immigrants who said that work was their main reason for moving to the UK were EU citizens. After the Brexit 2016 referendum, there was a sharp decline in long-term EU migration which also included migration for work.
The largest category of work visas issued to non-EU citizens is employer-sponsored work visas for graduate jobs, which make up the part of the immigration system known as Tier 2. In 2019, these skilled sponsored workers made up 46% of all work visas issued with some 64,000 entry visas issued to non-EU citizens.
The number of skilled non-EU workers sponsored by employers increased between 2015 and 2019, driven primarily by recruitment into the NHS and healthcare. More than half of skilled sponsored workers in 2019 were in two industries: IT and, increasingly, health and social work. Of the 49,000 skilled sponsored workers issued entry visas over this period, 31% were in the IT industry and 25% were in health and social work. The number of skilled workers sponsored by healthcare employers more than tripled, from 3,500 in full-year 2015 to 12,300 in the first three quarters of 2019 alone, whereas numbers in IT and other industries have slightly declined in recent years.
They also conclude that Indian citizens were the largest recipients of work visas throughout 2019.
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