Immigration forecast to add 6.1 mln to UK population by 2036, adds pressure for govt

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Immigration is expected to add 6.1 million people to the UK population by mid-2036, according to official projections that add pressure on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over a sensitive issue in the run-up to an election.

The UK’s population will grow from 67 million in mid-2021 to 73.7 million in mid-2036, driven almost entirely by migration, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) forecast on Tuesday.

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Migration has become a dominant political issue in Britain and will figure prominently in a national vote later this year where Sunak’s ruling Conservatives are forecast in opinion polls to lose power.

The projected jump, over the 15-year period, also reflects a projection of 541,000 more births than deaths, the ONS said.

Figures released in November showed annual net migration to the UK hit a record of 745,000 in 2022 and has stayed high since. The ONS projections assume a net migration level of 315,000 people annually from the year ending mid-2028 onwards.

‘Firm’ approach on migration

Sunak’s government last month announced stricter visa measures, including higher salary thresholds and restrictions on bringing in family members, to bring numbers down.

The move was criticized by businesses and trade unions which said it would be counterproductive for the private sector and the state-run health service, both dogged by labour shortages.

The Home Office laid out a timetable to implement the curbs on Tuesday, aimed at lowering the number of migrants by 300,000 compared to last year. It said it would lay new rules on February19 to remove the right for care workers to bring dependents, with enforcement from March 11.

Rules to raise the minimum earnings threshold for those arriving as skilled workers by 48 percent to 38,700 pounds ($49,000) are expected to be laid on March 14, with enforcement from April 4.

“It is a firm approach, but a fair one, and gives those affected time to prepare whilst ensuring that migration comes down,” Home Secretary James Cleverly said.

Read more: Sunak says UK making progress against ‘small boat’ migration, clearing backlog

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