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The impact of migration on population structure Get the lesson plan hereThink about it

Migration is the movement of population from one area to another.  Some migrations are forced, voluntary, permanent and temporary, International and regional.   Forced migration is where people have no option but to move. This can happen during a war (e.g. in Rwanda or Afghanistan) or a natural disaster (such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti).  Voluntary migration occurs when people CHOOSE to move, this is often for economic reasons for work or for social reasons such as to be closer to family.  If migration takes place WITHIN a country it is said to be National or regional.  If the migrant or migrants cross borders it is said to be International migration.

Migration can be looked at in terms of time scale as well.  Some migrants move for temporary periods whilst others move permanently.  Most migrations are local, but all migrations result from a huge range of push and pull factors.  A push factor is any event or factor that makes somebody move from a place.  A pull factor is a feature that makes some body want to migrate to a place.  The place here a migrant ends up is known as the destination or host country, whilst the place losing the migrant is known as the country of origin.


Migration tends to occur over short distances, with the vast majority of people generally wanting to remain close to the community and family in which they grew up.  Indeed, there is a distance decay relationship between the number of migrants and the distance they have travelled for permanent migration.  This relationship has been modelled mathematically using GRAVITY MODELS.


Distinctions also need to be made between the different types of migrant.  Countries allow legal migration, which is normally covered by a visa or permission system.  The UK for example, allows huge numbers of legal migrants from deals made within the European Union, from which it allows limitless migration to EU passport holders, and also allows skilled people to apply to the UK from non EU countries.  Migrants are also expected to take the citizenship test, which I have failed!  There are also illegal immigrants who enter the UK without permission, who are often economic migrants in search of a better way of life.  Then there are refugees and asylum seekers, who flee persecution and are given residency and help in the UK whilst there claim of asylum is considered by the Home Office.  If the case is proved true those asylum seekers can be made British citizens.

Consequences for population

These patterns have consequences for the DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS of a place.  Immigrant groups can tend to boost the birth rate of MEDCs for example, thy also swell the overall total population size if there is a positive net migration balance.  It is predicted by Migration Watch that immigration will raise the population of the UK by 7million over the next 20 years.  As one of the world's most prosperous and outward-looking nations, the UK has a leading role in managing migration. The Foreign Office claims that “we want borders that are open to those who bring skills, talent, business and creativity that boost our economy, but closed to those who might cause us harm or seek to enter illegally. We need to work with other countries to better understand and manage global migration.”

The ethnic and religious mix for a country also changes, bringing with it richness but also challenges for integration.


The case of Polish people into the UK provides a fantastic example (SOURCE – Neil Punnett, Geofile 550);

Poland was one of ten nations joining the European Union on the 1st of April 2004. Eight of these countries(the A8, as coined by the EU) were

Eastern European nations the other two the Mediterranean island nations of Malta and Cyprus. This has a big impact because the EU allows free movement of labour (therefore migration) between its member countries. An increase in migration into the EU’s more prosperous nations was expected following the accession (entry) of the A8 nations, most of which had higher unemployment rates and lower standards of living.

Source - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7370955.stm


The UK government at the time predicted there would be 15,000 migrants from the A8 countries moving to the UK for employment. This turned out to be a gross underestimate.  People from the A8 countries who wished to work in the UK for more than one month were generally required to register with the Home Office’s Worker Registration Scheme (WRS). By July 2006 447,000 people from Eastern Europe had applied to work in the UK. 62% (264,555) came from Poland. An additional 105,000 moved between July and December 2006, taking the total of Polish migrant workers to 370,000 since April 2004. An additional 150,000 people from the A8 nations migrated to the UK as self-employed workers, such as builders and plumbers, who do not need to register with the WRS. The Polish Embassy stated that the number of Polish workers in Britain was between 500,000 and 600,000. This would mean that Poles were now the third-largest minority ethnic group in the UK, after Pakistanis and Indians.


Push factors involved in the migration

Pull factors involved in the migration

Polish unemployment of 18.2% in 2005

40% unemployment in some Rural Polish areas, with youth unemployment high

In Poland annual GDP per head in 2006 was around $12,700


Desire to experience life abroad and to learn or improve their spoken English

UK unemployment rate of 5.1% in 2005

UK skill shortages in tourism and especially construction, and unskilled labour needed in farming

The average number of job vacancies in the UK for the three months to January 2007 was 607,900

GDP of $30,900 in the UK in 2006

The UK, along with Ireland and Sweden, were the only three countries in the EU not to restrict immigration from the A8 following accession



Migration from the A8 countries has been the subject of great debate in the UK. Concerns ranged over the costs of supporting poor Polish migrants, of Poles taking jobs from British workers, of young Poles behaving badly, of the growth of Catholicism in Britain, of road signs appearing in Polish, and so on. More academic analysis has suggested that the new migrants are beneficial to the UK in several ways:

• £2.54bn is contributed to the economy annually by eastern European immigrants in the UK.

• Migrants have contributed 0.5 to 1% of the UK’s economic growth in 2005 and 2006.

• 80% of new migrants are working people between the ages of 18 and 35. This offsets the tendency for the UK’s population to age,

addressing the difficulties in providing for an ageing population. National Insurance contributions would have to be higher if immigration was lower.

• The Bank of England stated that migration had helped to prevent the rapid rise in oil prices from causing a damaging surge of inflation, which allowed interest rates to remain lower than they otherwise would have been. Ernst & Young estimated that the cost of borrowing and of mortgages would be 0.5% higher if it were not for the migrants.

• The new migrants are stereotypically hard-working, enthusiastic, skilled and flexible.


Issues of concern include:

• Some Polish migrants have been exploited by unscrupulous employers and employment agencies in the UK. Although paid the minimum wage, some workers have had large deductions made for accommodation, transport, food etc., which have reduced their earnings considerably.

• The broad geographical spread of Polish and other A8 migrants has brought large-scale migration to areas which have not experienced it before. This has created tensions and misunderstandings. Anti-Polish graffiti has appeared on the streets of a number of UK cities.

Providing services for Polish people and their families, for example extra English lessons in schools.