Close this search box.

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

Published by Tom
Edited: 4 weeks ago
Published: June 25, 2024

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK Despite the Brexit deal signed in January 2020, the link from the European Union (EU) to the United Kingdom (UK) remains uncertain, and some experts warn that a low-migration future could pose significant economic risks for the country. Impact

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

Quick Read

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

Despite the Brexit deal signed in January 2020, the link from the European Union (EU) to the United Kingdom (UK) remains uncertain, and some experts warn that a low-migration future could pose significant economic risks for the country.

Impact on Labour Market

The UK has historically relied heavily on EU workers, with approximately 7% of the working population coming from EU countries prior to Brexit. A low-migration scenario could lead to labour market shortages, particularly in industries such as agriculture, construction, and healthcare, where EU workers make up a large percentage of the workforce.

Demographic Challenges

Furthermore, the UK’s aging population and low birth rate present significant demographic challenges. The number of people in the UK aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2050, while the working-age population is expected to decline. A low-migration future could exacerbate these challenges, as a shrinking workforce may struggle to support an aging population and maintain economic growth.

Loss of EU Talent

The UK’s education system is a major draw for international students, with over 40% of non-UK students coming from the EU. A low-migration future could result in a loss of EU talent, as students may choose to return home or seek opportunities in countries with more welcoming immigration policies. This brain drain could negatively impact the UK’s research and development sector, which relies heavily on international talent to drive innovation.

Trade Relations

The UK’s trade relations with the EU could also be affected by a low-migration future. The free movement of people is closely linked to the free movement of goods, services, and capital. Without easy access to a large and nearby labour pool, UK businesses may face higher costs and more bureaucracy when trading with EU countries.


In conclusion, a low-migration future for the UK could have far-reaching economic consequences. Labour market shortages, demographic challenges, loss of EU talent, and trade relations are just a few areas where the impact could be felt. As the UK navigates its new relationship with the EU, it is crucial that policymakers consider these risks and take steps to mitigate their potential negative effects.

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

The Hidden Risk for the UK’s Economic Recovery: Low Migration


The ongoing economic challenges faced by the United Kingdom are both post-Brexit uncertainty and trade disputes, along with the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact. The former, resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union, has created a climate of uncertainty for businesses and investors. Meanwhile, the latter poses a significant threat through its devastating effects on public health and the economy.

Doom Loop: A Concept Applicable to the UK’s Economic Situation

Doom loop, also known as a negative feedback loop, is an economic phenomenon characterized by interrelated declines in economic activity and government finances.

Definition and Explanation

A doom loop occurs when a decrease in economic activity leads to lower tax revenues and increased government spending, resulting in higher public debt. This, in turn, can lead to a downgrade of the country’s credit rating, pushing up borrowing costs and further reducing economic activity.

Historical Examples

Notable historical examples of doom loops include the Greek debt crisis and the Japanese Lost Decade in the 1990s.

Thesis Statement

Despite the challenges, this article will argue that one of the least discussed risks for the UK’s economic recovery is the potential impact of low migration. This phenomenon, often overlooked in discussions around Brexit and the pandemic, can have far-reaching consequences for the labor market, public finances, and overall economic growth.

The Economic Significance of Migration to the UK

Overview of historical migration patterns and their contribution to the economy

Migration has played a significant role in shaping the UK’s economic landscape. Historically, the country has experienced various waves of immigration, each contributing to different sectors and aspects of the economy. From the post-World War II influx of workers from the Commonwealth to more recent labor movements from the European Union, migration has been a crucial factor in driving Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and labor market dynamics.

Quantifying the economic impact through various studies and statistics

According to multiple studies, the overall economic contribution of immigration to the UK has been substantial. Research by the Migration Policy Institute reveals that immigrants contributed £20 billion in tax revenue and saved the UK government £17 billion in public services between 2011 and 2016. Additionally, a report by the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge suggests that EU migrants alone made a net contribution to the UK economy of around £20 billion per year between 2001 and 2011.

1.Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth

The economic impact of migration on GDP growth can be seen in several ways. For instance, the influx of labor from abroad has led to increased productivity and competitiveness across various industries, such as agriculture, healthcare, construction, and services. Furthermore, migration has contributed to a more diverse consumer base, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK economy.

1.Labor market dynamics

Immigration has also had a profound effect on labor market dynamics in the UK. New arrivals have filled skill gaps and bolstered the workforce in sectors where there was a shortage of domestic talent. For instance, many EU immigrants have taken up jobs in industries with labor shortages, such as agriculture and healthcare, contributing to overall economic growth and productivity.

1.Fiscal contributions through taxes

Apart from contributing to the labor force and overall economic productivity, immigrants have also made significant fiscal contributions in the form of taxes. A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) indicates that immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in public services over their lifetime, creating a net positive fiscal contribution to the UK economy.

Current state of migration in the UK post-Brexit and its implications for the economy

Free movement restrictions and their impact on recruitment

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) and the subsequent end of free movement has brought about significant changes in migration patterns. With restrictions on labor mobility, businesses are now facing challenges in recruiting skilled workers from Europe, potentially affecting their ability to compete and grow.

Reduction in net migration numbers

Since the Brexit vote, there has been a noticeable decline in net migration numbers to the UK. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, net migration dropped by approximately 100,000 people between 2018 and 2019. This trend is expected to continue, which may impact industries that have relied heavily on EU labor in the past.

Potential loss of EU students and skilled workers

Another area of concern is the potential loss of EU students and skilled workers due to Brexit. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU has led to uncertainty regarding their future status in the country, which may discourage them from coming or staying in the UK. This could have far-reaching implications for both the higher education sector and the labor market.

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

I The Economic Consequences of Low Migration for the UK

Labor market challenges

  1. Shortages in various industries and sectors: With low migration, the UK may face labor shortages in critical areas such as healthcare, education, and construction.
  2. Increased reliance on automation and robots: As a result, there could be potential job loss for UK citizens, leading to social unrest and economic instability.
  3. Impact on wages and employment conditions: This could lead to a decrease in wages and poorer employment conditions, making it difficult for low-skilled workers to make ends meet.

Demographic shifts and their implications for public services and social cohesion

  1. Ageing population and its impact on pension systems, healthcare, and education: An ageing population will put pressure on public services like pension systems, healthcare, and education. Without a steady influx of migrants to replenish the workforce and contribute economically, the UK may struggle to meet these demands.
  2. Changes in cultural dynamics and potential social tensions: Low migration could also lead to changes in cultural dynamics and potential social tensions, creating an uneasy societal divide.

Reduced innovation and competitiveness

  1. Decreased diversity in the workforce: A limited pool of new ideas and perspectives could lead to a decrease in innovation and competitiveness.
  2. Impact on research and development sectors: This could negatively affect sectors like biotech and tech startups, which rely on a diverse workforce to drive innovation.

Potential trade-offs with other policy priorities

  1. Exploration of potential trade-offs and their implications for long-term economic growth: The UK may need to consider the potential trade-offs between low migration and other policy priorities, such as investment in public services or environmental sustainability. Careful consideration is necessary to determine the long-term economic implications of these choices.

The Looming Economic Doom Loop: Low Migration Risks for the UK

Policy Responses to Mitigate the Impact of Low Migration on the UK Economy

Overview of Current Policies Aimed at Addressing Labor Shortages and Skills Gaps

The UK government has already taken several steps to address the potential labor shortages and skills gaps resulting from low migration rates. Some of these initiatives include: investment in education and training programs for UK citizens. By improving the quality and accessibility of education, the government aims to enhance the skills base of the domestic workforce. Another approach is encouraging the return of emigrants. This can be achieved through tax incentives, such as reduced national insurance contributions or other means.

Discussion on Potential New Immigration Policies and Their Implications for Economic Recovery

In the face of low migration rates, the UK government is considering new immigration policies to support economic recovery. One such policy is a points-based system. This merit-based approach would assign points based on various factors, such as qualifications, skills, and job offers. However, this system may limit the number of low-skilled workers entering the country, which could have negative implications for certain sectors.

Points-based System: Limitations

The points-based system could face several limitations, including: (i) potential labor shortages in sectors that rely heavily on low-skilled workers; (ii) increased competition among employers for highly skilled workers, which could drive up wages and salaries.

Alternative Policies

Other potential policies include: guest worker programs or targeted immigration quotas. Guest worker programs would allow employers to sponsor foreign workers for specific jobs, while targeted immigration quotas would allocate a certain number of visas to individuals in specific industries. These policies could help mitigate labor shortages in sectors that face significant skill gaps, but they may also face criticism for potentially creating a two-tier labor market.

Examination of Other Policy Initiatives That Can Support Economic Growth in the Absence of High Migration Rates

In the absence of high migration rates, other policy initiatives can support economic growth. For example, the government could invest in infrastructure projects or technological innovation. These investments could create jobs and spur economic activity, ultimately contributing to a stronger and more resilient economy.


Throughout this article, we have explored the various arguments for and against the current trend of low migration to the UK. We began by examining the economic benefits that immigration brings, such as filling labour shortages and boosting productivity. However, we also acknowledged the concerns surrounding the impact of migration on social cohesion and public services.

Recap of Main Arguments:

Firstly, we emphasized the importance of a skilled workforce for economic growth and how immigration helps to address labour shortages. Secondly, we acknowledged the potential negative consequences of low migration on public services and social cohesion. Lastly, we discussed the implications for businesses and industries that rely heavily on migrant labour.

Long-Term Consequences:

If the trend of low migration continues, there could be significant long-term consequences for the UK economy and society. For instance, businesses may struggle to find the talent they need to innovate and grow, leading to a decline in competitiveness. Additionally, there could be increased pressure on public services and social cohesion issues, potentially exacerbating existing tensions.

Call to Action:

Therefore, it is essential that policymakers and stakeholders take action to address the challenges posed by low migration. One potential solution could be to invest in education and training to develop a homegrown talent pool. Another option could be to explore alternative methods of attracting skilled workers, such as digital nomad visas or remote work policies. Ultimately, it will require a collaborative effort from all stakeholders to ensure that the UK remains competitive and socially cohesive in an increasingly globalised world.

Quick Read

June 25, 2024