Posted on March 22, 2023

Northern Ireland Migration Patterns ‘Shifting Outside EU’

John Campbell, BBC, March 10, 2023

Migration to NI may be orientating away from European countries to Asia and Africa, analysis suggests.

Ulster University economist Mark Magill has looked at recent data on national insurance registrations by overseas adults entering Northern Ireland.

Post-Brexit UK law makes it harder for EU nationals to move for low-paid work.

However, liberalisation of the visa system for high-skilled and medical workers appears to have attracted more workers from countries like India.

Mr Magill suggests that a similar pattern may be emerging in Northern Ireland.

Since the enlargement of the EU in 2004 the vast majority of migrants entering Northern Ireland have been from Eastern European countries.

Official figures suggest that between 2008 and 2016 migrant workers from the EU accounted for almost all of the employment growth in Northern Ireland.

National insurance registrations are one way to estimate migration flow.

Jump in non-EU registrations

In 2021 registrations by migrants to Northern Ireland fell to very low levels due to the pandemic.

As registrations bounced back in 2022 they showed a significant change in composition, with the majority of the approximately 11,000 registrations coming from non-EU people.

Mr Magill said the non-EU registrations are driven by an increase in Asian registrations, in particular from India.

He added that while “the future long-term quantum of overseas workers is still uncertain, the decrease in EU nationals and increase in non-EU nationals looks like a genuine structural shift mirrored elsewhere in the UK”.

He said that one caveat is that the overall registration level for last year is likely inflated due to Covid-related processing delays in 2020/21.

More official data on international migration to Northern Ireland will be published later this year.