Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain

Paper Info
Page count 6
Word count 1799
Read time 7 min
Topic Sociology
Type Coursework
Language 🇬🇧 UK


The United Kingdom has had to contend with a variety of migration-related issues. This country has experienced two significant kinds of migration: the internal and the international movement of people. When it comes to internal migration UK has to deal with the fact that those who belong to this category become displaced as they move from the countryside to the town and from the rural to the urban economy within the country (Castles, 2003: 14). On the other hand, because the UK was once the center of a mighty empire, many people of diverse ethnic backgrounds – who were once under the domain of Great Britain – now desire to enter and settle permanently. These two kinds of migration can be disastrous and beneficial to British society and the economy. This paper will attempt to understand the social problems that are the direct result of these two forms of migration in the UK and their responses.


According to the International Organisation for Migration IOM, there are now about 192 million people living outside their place of birth – that roughly 1 out of every 35 persons in the world is a migrant (IOM 2009). There are many reasons people leave their country of origin to settle in a foreign land. People are always on the move since ancient times. In the past, this movement was tolerated and even encouraged. Still, in the latter part of the 20th century, governments and citizens became aware that migration can create profound changes that are non-reversible.

It is also important to point out that only a few countries are experiencing significant inward migration. Most of the time, the type of migration experienced by many is internal migration, but this does not mean that this is less of a problem. Those familiar with the impact of inward migration are countries like the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Israel. While it is true that there are close to 200 million people living outside the place of their birth, this number pales in comparison to natives who are still living in the land of their labor. The number of migrants moving beyond the boundaries of their nation-state is genuinely significant, but this is merely 3% of the world’s population (Stalker, 2001: 10). This is why it is also important not to neglect internal migration. In this study, the two forms of migration will be applied to the UK to determine the social problems caused by migration.

Sociological Interpretation

Currently, the United Kingdom has to deal with multiple issues relating to migration. After the two World Wars and the rapid increase in the number of immigrants who wished to enter the UK, the British government created political roadblocks preventing outsiders from entering the country. According to one report, “Britain rejected immigration because of political boundaries wider than the nation: its immigrants were formal co-nationals without substantive ties of belonging, capitalizing on political boundaries that had too expansively and indistinctly drawn as the boundaries of empire (Joppke 1999: 100). In other words, the goal of the British government is not to prevent aliens from entering the country but preventing “…the outer reaches of empire from moving toward the center” (Joppke 1999: 101). As a result, Britain was very selective regarding the kind of people they wanted to settle within their borders.

There is the enduring belief that migrant workers can negatively impact the economic well-being of a particular country. This is, of course, based on the old theory regarding finite resources. More people are competing in the labor market, for instance would undoubtedly mean that there are fewer jobs available for everyone. This is a very crucial issue as far as the citizens are concerned. On the other hand, some argue that the fear of increasing unemployment rates is based on assumptions. In reality, migrant workers help increase the number of jobs and, therefore, improve the country’s economic standing that allowed entry.

According to Stalker (2001: 63), it is not a mere coincidence that many of the wealthiest nations in the world are those that are open to the idea of allowing migrant workers to come in and enhance their labor force. He also pointed out that the popular myth about migrants stealing jobs from local workers and sponging off the welfare system is not based on facts (Stalker 2001: 63). One only has to examine the robust economic growth of the following countries: the United States, Germany, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Singapore. A statistical analysis of European countries from 1991-to 1995 revealed that for every 1% increase in population due to immigration, there was also an increase in Gross Domestic Product of 1.25 to 1.5 percent (Stalker 2001: 64).

Thus, while some oppose inward migration into the UK, some can see the positive benefits of this type of migration to the country. Those who are not thrilled with the idea of an exodus of citizens from emerging economies in Asia and the Caribbean are a politically mixed group who may not hold the same political views but are united in their fear of what inward migration may bring to the UK. They are the nationalists, the xenophobes, some environmentalists, and others who fear “overcrowding and a radical increase in population density (Stalker, 2001). Aside from that, there is also concern about the negative impact on the indigenous culture. In other words, the British way of life can be threatened. There is also concern about the extra pressure on the already struggling welfare state (Stalker, 2001: 82).

Furthermore, these people are also concerned about the migrants who come here and not being able to achieve the kind of life they dream of having in the UK. There is the problem of being exploited by traffickers and criminal syndicates into modern forms of slavery. There is also the exploitation of undocumented migrants who may initially experience severe unemployment. They also worry that their arrival may fuel racist attitudes and maybe the root cause of civil unrest.

Racism is indeed a significant issue in the UK. Admittedly, this is an unpopular topic in a country that fought hard to defeat Hitler and the Nazis. Yet, at the same time, it is hard to deny that discrimination is very much evident in the UK. In the words of a former Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, “…it is a simple fact of human nature that for the British people there is a great difference between Australians and New Zealanders … who come of British stock, and people from Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent…” (Joppke 1999: 101). Discrimination is rooted in the perception that blacks’ appearance, habits, religion, and culture are incompatible with the British way of life (Joppke 1999: 101).

On the other end of the continuum are those willing to accept inward migration. They are also a mixed group, and here one can find economists, libertarians, social liberals, and internationalists (Stalker, 2001). They may not see eye to eye on some issues, but when it comes to inward migration, they see the glass as half-full instead of being pessimistic and declaring that it is half-empty.

To this group, inward migration is a source of migrant workers who can be utilized to sustain economic growth (Harris, 1995). Migrant workers, according to Karl Marx, are a “reserve army of labor” that is a significant source of cheap labor for capitalists (Harris, 2001). In addition, some assert that migrants are pioneers in developing transnational or global citizenship, something that is becoming very important in the 21st century (Sosyal, 1994). In other words, a country like the UK could no longer afford or even be able to produce the number and quality of high-caliber workers needed in an increasingly complex and high-tech world.


Through the decades, there have been numerous responses to the problem of migration. On the global level, not much has been seen, but at the regional level, one can see significant developments to mitigate the negative impacts of inward migration. This is very much evident when it comes to the European Union. Since the 1990s, much effort has been expended to control migration (Joppke, 1999). But this is easier said than done in the case of the refugees, such as those involving people who sought escape from the cruelty of war in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Moreover, these controls needed re-examination because of the population’s rapid aging in some parts of the EU (Harris, 2001).

When it comes to the national level, the response of the UK was typical of postcolonial regimes (Castles & Miller, 2003). The UK recruited labor from colonies and former colonies, hoping to have a continuation of colonial relations (Castles & Miller, 2003). This means that some were granted full citizenship, yet they are still controlled by institutionalized discrimination (Joppke, 1999). The guiding principle is not whether it is good or bad to embrace assimilation but dictated by the state of the economy – whether it is booming or in recession.

From the point of view of political correctness and a human rights standpoint, it is not suitable for the British government to be perceived as discriminating against people who are not of British stock and have values and traditions that do not agree with the dominant ethnic group in the UK. On the other hand, it is also advantageous to have a more open-minded view regarding migrant workers. The people of Great Britain need only to revisit economic boom times and the accompanying shortages in labor. This occurred in the post-war period when Great Britain was in desperate need of workers and, as a result, approved the entry of more than 350 000 European workers (Joppke 1999: 105). This is why this nation has to have a more flexible immigration policy and the need to develop strategies on how to increase social cohesion when migrant workers are already in the country and need to adjust to a new environment.


The British government could not afford a “zero migration policy” (Joppke 1999: 100). This is not practical because even rich nations could not produce the exact number of laborers and skilled workers to sustain economic growth. Various industries in the United Kingdom require migrant workers to fill the vacancies due to an aging population and the limited capacity of the British education system to enhance the British workforce. There will always be a time when migrant workers are needed to strengthen the economy. Thus, the government and various social organizations must work hand-in-hand with residents to improve the living and work conditions of migrant workers. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that many political groups in the UK are not comfortable with the idea of opening the gates for inward migration’s unhindered flow into the country.


Castles, S. and M.J. Miller (2003) The Age of Migration. Palgrave

Harris, N. (1995) The New Untouchables. Penguin

Harris, N. (2001) Thinking the Unthinkable. Tauris

International Organization for Migration (2009) About Migration [online].

Joppke, Christian (1999) Immigration and theNation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stalker, Peter (2001) The No-Nonsense Guide to International Migration. London: Verso.

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NerdyBro. (2022, October 5). Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain. Retrieved from https://nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/


NerdyBro. (2022, October 5). Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain. https://nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/

Work Cited

"Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain." NerdyBro, 5 Oct. 2022, nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/.


NerdyBro. (2022) 'Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain'. 5 October.


NerdyBro. 2022. "Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain." October 5, 2022. https://nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/.

1. NerdyBro. "Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain." October 5, 2022. https://nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/.


NerdyBro. "Migration as a Social Problem in Great Britain." October 5, 2022. https://nerdybro.com/migration-as-a-social-problem-in-great-britain/.