All Change: The Impact of Government Policy on Migration Composition & Social Cohesion

Helena Ivanov

Our latest report finds that the nature of immigration to the UK is changing following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, with fewer European immigrants and far more from India, China, and Nigeria.We discovered that there has been a significant drop in EU citizens coming to the UK – with 2020 seeing the first instance of negative net migration from the EU in 30 years – and an increase in non-EU migrants arriving. Whilst these changes have been altered by the Covid-19 pandemic, there remains a clear pattern.Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, EU migrants must now achieve the same thresholds to come to the UK as non-EU migrants. They must have an approved job offer, speak English, and be due to earn at least £25,600. For roles in education and healthcare the salary threshold is lower at £20,480.


The paper finds that:

  • In 2019, overall net migration to the UK was estimated to be 270,000.
  • In 2015, net migration from the EU was 200,000. In 2019, it was 49,000. In 2020, there was the first instance of negative net migration from the EU for 30 years.
  • As obstacles have increased for EU citizens to move to the UK, so fewer have applied to do so. This is particularly notable in hospitality, food productions and logistics industries.


The increase in non-EU migrants is predominantly coming from India, China and Nigeria.

  • Chinese citizens received 21% of all visas, 91% of which were granted for study.
  • Whilst the numbers decreased in 2020 due to Covid-19, in 2021 record numbers of Chinese students applied to study in the UK.
  • In 2021, the number of skilled work permits jumped by 25% in comparison to 2019.
  • Indian citizens were the top nationality to be granted work visas. Future trade talks could make it easier for Indian citizens to emigrate to the UK.
  • In 2021 there was a 29% increase in visas granted to Nigerian citizens.


With the pattern of immigration to the UK changing so dramatically there have been questions about the impact on social cohesion in communities caused by a change in migrant type. The UK is diverse on the national level, but this must be mirrored at the local level if immigration is to make a positive change to the UK’s social mixing. Previous studies have found that both economic deprivation and cultural differences can negatively impact cultural cohesion, though the early signs are that such concerns have not materialised in the UK in the changed balance after Brexit. This remains of course a longer term issue to monitor from the perspective of effective integration.  

The paper recommends the following actions to safeguard and improve social cohesion:

1. Continuously monitor whether there are any further changes to the groups who are arriving and respond promptly to changes which have potential impacts on cohesion.

a. To ensure that this remains the case data must continue to be gathered on social cohesiveness, especially in communities with a large number of immigrants.

2. Monitor levels of ethnic segregation and concentration and their possible impact on social cohesion.

3. Introduce a fairer and more balanced system of asylum seekers’ relocation.

a. As the research tells us, economically deprived and poorer communities generally report lower levels of social cohesion – and housing asylum seekers at such a high rate in these areas is likely to further damage cohesiveness in these communities. Furthermore, it is unclear whether these poor communities have the necessary resources for projects that generally help people integrate into neighbourhoods. Thus, going forward, the Government will need to balance the burden and relocate asylum seekers into wealthier areas as much as (if not more than) poorer areas.

4. Continue implementing all aspects of the Integrating Communities Action Plan and other projects aimed at fostering integration and social cohesion.

5. Monitor cohesiveness in neighbourhoods which contain a relatively high concertation of EU immigrants.





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