Migration Statistics - Public Administration Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


Quality of international migration estimates

1.  We welcome work the ONS has done to improve the quality of migration statistics. The ONS has done its best to produce informative migration statistics using the International Passenger Survey. However, the International Passenger Survey is inadequate for measuring, managing and understanding the levels of migration that are now typical in the UK. The Government must plan to end reliance on the International Passenger Survey as the primary method of estimating migration: it is not fit for the purposes to which it is put. (Paragraph 23)

2.  e-Borders data has the potential to provide better headline estimates of immigration, emigration and net migration from 2018. The ONS and Home Office should move as quickly as possible to measuring immigration, emigration and net migration using e-Borders data. (Paragraph 24)

3.  Migration is an international phenomenon. Data held by other countries on migration to and from the UK could help improve the depth and quality of UK migration statistics. The ONS should co-operate further with foreign national and international statistics agencies to improve the quality of UK migration statistics. (Paragraph 25)

Measuring progress against the net migration target

4.  In the longer term, migration estimates based on the International Passenger Survey are too uncertain for accurate measurement of progress against the Government's net migration target. We are struck by the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee to the Government that it should aim for net migration of only 50,000 as the only means of being certain that net migration is in fact below 100,000.The Government should not base its target level of net migration on such an uncertain statistic: doing so could lead to inappropriate immigration policy. (Paragraph 29)

Understanding who is migrating to and from the UK

5.  Migration estimates based on the International Passenger Survey do not provide sufficient detail on the characteristics of people migrating to and from the UK to judge properly the social and economic consequences of migration and the effects of immigration policy. These data are indispensible for anticipating demand for public services such as schools and the NHS. Migration statistics should provide detailed information on the characteristics of people migrating to and from the UK within particular periods, including information that is relevant to evaluating the impact of immigration policy and necessary for planning services. The ONS should broaden the information it gathers on the characteristics of migrants to include level of educational qualification, labour market skills, ethnic group, and languages spoken. (Paragraph 34)

6.  e-Borders data could potentially provide detailed information on the characteristics of migrants subject to visa control. However, e-Borders data alone will not provide detailed information on the characteristics of those migrants not subject to visa control, or any information on the geographical origin and destination of migrants within the UK. If the International Passenger Survey is not an adequate source for this information, and no other sources are available, new sources of migration statistics are needed, even though they may come at some cost. (Paragraph 35)

7.  The ONS should develop new sources of data that can provide accurate statistics on the numbers and characteristics of people migrating to and from the UK, and on their areas of residence within the UK. The ONS should link International Passenger Survey responses to e-Borders data as soon as possible. However, the need for further data may also require the creation of a new routine migrant survey covering the whole of the UK. (Paragraph 36)

Local area migration statistics

8.  The International Passenger Survey does not provide accurate estimates of international migration in local areas. The Census provides the most accurate data on the number and characteristics of migrants at the local level, but it is too infrequent to act as a routine source of data. The future of the Census is also uncertain. As the only reliable source of data on migrant populations in local areas, the potential loss of the Census is a concern. Accurate estimates of migration in local authorities must be available independent of the Census. The ONS should develop new sources of data on international migration that are robust enough to provide accurate estimates of annual migration flows to and from local authority areas, even if the Census continues.(Paragraph 45)

Home Office migration statistics

9.  We welcome improvements in the breadth of migration data published by the Home Office since 2011. The Home Office and ONS should use e-Borders data to produce more accurate measures of immigration, emigration and net migration by age, sex and nationality at the national level as soon as possible. (Paragraph 61)

10.  The Home Office should move as rapidly as possible towards integrating visa information with e-Borders data, with the aim of measuring immigration, emigration and net migration by people in different visa categories. This would also provide data on the number of people in different visa categories currently living in the UK, and would enable the Home Office to gather detailed information on the characteristics of migrants subject to migration control. The Government should formulate and publish a plan for integrating UKBA's IT, which sets out its objectives, how they will be achieved, and in what time. (Paragraph 62)

11.  The Home Office's programme to modernise IT across the immigration system provides an opportunity to improve significantly official migration statistics. It is vital that ONS and other government statistical needs are fully understood and incorporated into new IT specifications. The Home Office and ONS should together develop a coherent strategy for better migration statistics. (Paragraph 63)

Communicating migration statistics

12.  The net migration target can disguise the nature of actual population change in the terms which concern many members of the public. Members of the public do not always understand the distinction between immigration and net migration, and many are more concerned by some types of immigration than others. The Government should do more to enable better public understanding of migration, in order for the net migration target to be meaningful to and understood by the public. (Paragraph 68)

13.  Public understanding of migration statistics is poor. This is partly because migration is a complex phenomenon, but also because official migration statistics do not present a full and accurate picture of migration to and from the UK. As a consequence, the public debate about migration has too often focussed on the headline measure of net migration, without considering the size and composition of its component flows, the range of behaviour it summarises, and the different types of people it covers. (Paragraph 73)

14.  We welcome improvements in the reporting of migration statistics by the Home Office. The Home Office has substantially increased the range of data it publishes on immigration control. The Home Office Immigration Statistics User Guide is an effective summary and explanation of the available statistics. We also welcome the new Home Office website at Gov.uk, which addresses some of the criticisms of the Home Office website made in evidence to this inquiry. (Paragraph 74)

15.  We welcome improvements in the reporting of migration statistics by the ONS, including the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, which summarises the most recent migration statistics, and the new topic page for migration on the ONS website. However, the clarity and accessibility of the information that the ONS provides on migration statistics could still be improved. The ONS has improved the presentation of the material it publishes on migration statistics but it should also consider the content of this material, and the way it is explained and presented. The aim should be that a non-expert user should be able to develop an understanding of migration statistics with no prior knowledge or experience. Migration statistics should be presented alongside related guidance on their sources, methodology, use and interpretation. (Paragraph 75)

16.  The ONS should produce a user guide to ONS migration statistics similar to the Home Office's Immigration Statistics User Guide. This should explain what migration statistics measure, how they are produced, and what data are available—including table by table guidance. It should be honest and open about the weaknesses of the data. (Paragraph 76)



 
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Prepared 28 July 2013