Some encouraging data on migration

Recruiting great staff is the biggest challenge for many startups. This is the central conclusion of the Scale Up Report and we see it every day in our own operations and at our partners. Training and education are a big part of the solution, but skilled migrants are another. Hence I was encouraged to see the UK is close to top of the chart when it comes to share of foreign born population with tertiary degrees.


Digging into this a bit more (largely by reading the FT article containing the graph above) it transpires that despite all the furore from anti-immigration parties migration has fallen since the 2008 crash by to an average of 3.6m per year – a drop of around 1m. Moreover, the percentage of people who are migrants has held steady since 1960 at around 3% of the global population – now about 232m people. Surprisingly, the increase in migration is therefore best understood as a result of population growth rather than globalisation.

Also interesting in the FT article is the chart below showing that for most countries migrants are net economic contributors.

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Most migrants are in search of better economic opportunity. Hence they head for countries that are doing well. That’s why migration has been rising in the UK recently whilst on average worldwide it has been falling. Spain and Greece, by contrast, have seen increases in emigration. These tides will turn of their own accord.

I’m writing about this because here in the UK we should be proud that well educated people want to come to our country and recognise the critical role they play at startups and in the economy more widely. The current anti-immigrant and anti-Europe rhetoric is both wrong and damaging.


  • David Lundholm

    Nic, I completely agree with your general sentiment. Migrants bring energy, stimulation, investment and new ideas and of course it’s not a coincedence that the top 5 countries in the top chart are all English-speaking countries. New graduates come here for the opportunities provided by a more liberal market and to improve their already impressive language skills.

    One interesting discussion point I heard recently was that the migration tends to flow to certain zones where there are already established nationality pools of family, friends, migrant culture. Long term, the migrant economic benefit is shared across the whole of the UK, yet it’s areas like parts of London, Eastern England, the North and North-West that have to provide and pay for schools, doctors, training, services for disproportionately larger groups of migrants. Yet central government is slow to target, let alone share the general economic benefits of migration towards these areas and in the short run, they feel under strain because the service infrastructure literally struggles to cope, and the central funding doesn’t properly support investment in that. Not surprisingly, it’s in these areas that the anti-immigration parties can thrive. Maybe central government needs to tackle this head on…

  • Very interesting. Thanks David. You are right, immigration needs to work locally as well as nationally, and if that requires policy changes then they should be made. The pro-immigration arguments should also be made locally as well as nationally.