Labour market: Migration 'to remain at current levels'

Net migration is unlikely to fall much below current levels next year, a think tank predicted yesterday.

Increased immigration from European countries not covered by the Government's proposed immigration cap, along with a downward trend in emigration, will all lead to net migration staying around the 200,000 level in 2011, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said.

It warned that introducing "hasty measures" so the Government can try to fulfil its pledge of cutting net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015 would be damaging to the UK's economy.

IPPR director Nick Pearce said: "Ministers must be careful to manage down public expectations. The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the Government has already put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging.

"Bringing down the level of immigration, which has been high in recent years, is a legitimate policy goal.

"But this should be done by making long-term and sustainable reforms to the structure of our economy and labour market."

The IPPR's review said that if the UK economy continued to recover, the number of people coming to the UK for work could increase.

The number of migrants coming from Spain, Portugal, Greece and some of the newer member states could also rise if the UK economy performs stronger than countries in the eurozone.

And the substantial rise in the number of people coming to the UK from Latvia and Lithuania – up 19,000 and 21,000 respectively in the year to September compared with increases of 12,000 and 13,000 the previous year – could also continue.

The number of Irish migrants is also expected to increase, the Economic and Social Research Institute predicting 120,000 Irish nationals could leave, many coming to the UK.