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Net migration: how an unreachable target came to shape Britain

Net migration numbers tell us little about the effectiveness of migration policy.



1000 Words/Shutterstock

New data shows that the UK has hit a record high net migration number of 606,000. Through it has been central to 13 years of policy and rhetoric, net migration is, in fact, a pretty odd metric that tells us very little about how the UK’s immigration system is functioning.

Net migration is the difference between the number of people entering the country (and expected to stay long term) and the number leaving. So net migration of +1 could be achieved by two people leaving the country and three people moving here, or by ten million people leaving the country and ten million and one moving here. The practical difference between these two scenarios is, of course, huge.

Net migration numbers tell us nothing about what sort of people UK businesses want to employ, how the different migrant groups who are arriving or leaving affect the economy, or the communities they join (or leave). It only really tells us one thing: how migration affects the overall size of the population.

Until 2010, the UK debate generally focused on the number of people arriving – and on the idea that immigrants presented a problem. But in January of that year, then opposition leader David Cameron, on a mission to detoxify the Conservative reputation as “the nasty party,” made a key rhetorical shift. He promised to bring net migration – a metric usually only of interest to data nerds and researchers – down to the “tens of thousands”.

This moved the debate away from a focus on immigrants themselves, and instead to a technocratic idea – a number that could be controlled. It introduced the concept that there was a “right amount” of migration to and from the country (less than 100,000), and framed migration as simply a matter of balancing the books.

This was a big PR win in the short term. Journalists could talk about whether the government was achieving a target, rather than the array of more complex metrics that might indicate whether migration policy was delivering economic or social benefits. It arguably also helped Cameron to be elected prime minister.

But the reality was (and still is) that government only has limited control over who comes and goes.

Demands from businesses and universities to allow key people to come to the UK, and from people whose loved ones lived overseas, needed to be catered for. British people and (at the time) EU citizens could come and go as they pleased, and economic or political issues outside the UK were out of government’s control.

A moving target

The coalition years were dominated by this promise to hit the net migration target by the 2015 election. Between 2011 and 2012, Theresa May as home secretary introduced policies to cap skilled non-EU labour migration and close “bogus colleges” and cut abuse of study migration visas.

She also created a minimum income threshold for people bringing a spouse or other family member to live with them, and aimed to “break the link between immigration and settlement”.

But the target was always unrealistic. Within a year, my colleagues and I at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford had established that the government’s own impact assessments showed the net migration target could not be met based on the policies that had been introduced. Equally, membership of the EU and free movement meant that the UK had little control over overall levels of migration.

As the 2015 election neared, the magnitude of the failure to meet the target was becoming obvious. A relatively thriving economy and subsequent job creation had helped push net migration over the 300,000 mark. The issue was electoral kryptonite for both Conservatives and Labour, and strengthened Nigel Farage’s then rampant UKIP.

In the end, Cameron secured a surprise majority after a promise to hold a referendum on EU membership. The party reiterated its promise to hit the net migration target, now referred to as an “ambition”, while Cameron campaigned to remain in the EU.

But promises to cut migration while staying committed to free movement began to look increasingly mealymouthed. Director of the Vote Leave campaign Dominic Cummings attributed victory in the Brexit campaign to the focus on migration.

It also led Cameron to resign. And when Theresa May took over as prime minister, her administration continued to commit itself to the net migration target, including it in her election manifesto.

This time, it was economics rather than policy that pushed net numbers down. The referendum dented the confidence of the international finance markets, and the pound plummeted in value against the Euro, the Zloty and other currencies.

Migrants in the UK, particularly those sending money home to their families, were earning less. Meanwhile the Eurozone was recovering from a years-long slump, with job creation in other EU member states. This combination is thought to be the main driver of a sharp fall in EU net migration to the UK, particularly from the new member states.

Caught in their own net

When Boris Johnson stepped in as prime minister, the net migration target was killed off, to be replaced by a somewhat vague new concept: the “Australian-style points based system”.

He continued to suggest this would deliver lower numbers, but with attention elsewhere and net migration lower than before the referendum, nobody seemed keen for a return to Cameron’s “balancing the books”.

Ultimately, the net migration target was hit by accident. It turned out that all that was needed was a global pandemic.

But Johnson’s “have your cake and eat it” post-Brexit policymaking – which has continued under Rishi Sunak – planted the seeds for a new net migration panic.

Under Johnson and Sunak, vague promises to cut net migration have been coupled with a significant liberalisation of the immigration system, most notably in the form of humanitarian visa routes for people leaving Ukraine and Hong Kong. These have made up a significant share of the record-high increase reflected in the latest numbers.

Additionally, relaxations of visa rules for non-EU workers, such as making care workers eligible for long-term work visas and reintroducing post-study work for international students, received significant take-up.

The public has largely supported many of these policies, and concerns about migration (apart from small boat arrivals, which contribute only a small percentage of net migration) have been relatively low for some time.

Two women at a march holding a handful of small Ukrainian flags
The British public have largely been supportive of humanitarian visas for people leaving Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. John Gomez/Shutterstock

But despite this, the media and policy response to the 606,000 number suggests that once again these numbers – though likely to be temporary – are causing serious concerns.

Conservatives still appear to regard control of migration as a key policy area on which they can win against Labour. But the party may wish that David Cameron had never opened Pandora’s box with his simplistic target.

Indeed, Rishi Sunak’s response has been to sidestep targets, while reiterating that the number is “too high”.

Now that the public has been introduced to the problematic concept of the “right amount” of net migration, the government may simply have to accept that it has been caught in its own net.

Rob McNeil has recently received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, and will shortly be starting work on a project that is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. He is also a trustee of the Work Rights Centre, which supports disadvantaged Britons' and migrants' access to employment justice.

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World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

Authored by Michael Maharrey via,

Most people in the mainstream…



World Bank: Global Economic Growth Expected To Slow To 2008 Levels

Authored by Michael Maharrey via,

Most people in the mainstream concede that the economy is heading for a recession, but the consensus seems to be that downturn will be short and shallow. Projections by the World Bank undercut that optimism.

According to the World Bank, global growth in 2023 will slow to the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis.

In other words, the World Bank is predicting the beginning of Great Recession 2.0.

You might recall that the Great Recession was neither short nor shallow.

In fact, World Bank Group chief economist and senior vice president Indermit Gill said, “The world economy is in a precarious position.”

According to the World Bank’s new Global Economic Prospects report, global growth is projected to decelerate to 2.1% this year, falling from 3.1% in 2022. The bank forecasts a significant slowdown during the last half of this year.

That would match the global growth rate during the 2008 financial crisis.

According to the World Bank, higher interest rates, inflation, and more restrictive credit conditions will drive the economic downturn.

The report forecasts that growth in advanced economies will slow from 2.6% in 2022 to 0.7% this year and remain weak in 2024.

Emerging market economies will feel significant pain from the economic slowdown. Yahoo Finance reported, “Higher interest rates are a problem for emerging markets, which already were reeling from the overlapping shocks of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They make it harder for those economies to service debt loans denominated in US dollars.”

The World Bank report paints a bleak picture.

The world economy remains hobbled. Besieged by high inflation, tight global financial markets, and record debt levels, many countries are simply growing poorer.”

Absent from the World Bank analysis is any mention of how more than a decade of artificially low interest rates and trillions of dollars in quantitative easing by central banks created the wave of inflation that continues to sweep the globe, along with massive levels of debt and all kinds of economic bubbles.

If you listen to the mainstream narrative, you would think inflation just came out of nowhere, and central banks are innocent victims nobly struggling to save the day by raising interest rates. Pundits fret about rising rates but never mention that rates were only so low for so long because of the actions of central banks. And they seem oblivious to the consequences of those policies.

But being oblivious doesn’t shield you from the impact of those consequences.

In reality, central banks and governments implemented policies intended to incentivize the accumulation of debt. They created trillions of dollars out of thin air and showered the world with stimulus, unleashing the inflation monster. And now they’re trying to battle the dragon they set loose by raising interest rates. This will inevitably pop the bubble they intentionally blew up. That’s why the World Bank is forecasting Great Recession-era growth. All of this was entirely predictable.

After all, artificially low interest rates are the mother’s milk of a global economy built on easy money and debt. When you take away the milk, the baby gets hungry. That’s what’s happening today. With interest rates rising, the bubbles are starting to pop.

And it’s probably going to be much worse than most people realize. There are more malinvestments, more debt, and more bubbles in the global economy today than there were in 2008. There is every reason to believe the bust will be much worse today than it was then.

In other words, you can strike “short” and “shallow” from your recession vocabulary.

Even the World Bank is hinting at this.

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/07/2023 - 15:20

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DNAmFitAge: Biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”…



“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

Credit: 2023 McGreevy et al.

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

BUFFALO, NY- June 7, 2023 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 10, entitled, “DNAmFitAge: biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness.”

Physical fitness is a well-known correlate of health and the aging process and DNA methylation (DNAm) data can capture aging via epigenetic clocks. However, current epigenetic clocks did not yet use measures of mobility, strength, lung, or endurance fitness in their construction. 

In this new study, researchers Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Ferenc Torma, Matyas Jokai, Ake T. Lu, Daniel W. Belsky, Alexandra Binder, Riccardo E. Marioni, Luigi Ferrucci, Ewelina Pośpiech, Wojciech Branicki, Andrzej Ossowski, Aneta Sitek, Magdalena Spólnicka, Laura M. Raffield, Alex P. Reiner, Simon Cox, Michael Kobor, David L. Corcoran, and Steve Horvath from the University of California Los Angeles, University of Physical Education, Altos Labs, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, University of Edinburgh, National Institute on Aging, Jagiellonian University, Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, University of Łódź, Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, Poland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia develop blood-based DNAm biomarkers for fitness parameters including gait speed (walking speed), maximum handgrip strength, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) which have modest correlation with fitness parameters in five large-scale validation datasets (average r between 0.16–0.48). 

“These parameters were chosen because handgrip strength and VO2max provide insight into the two main categories of fitness: strength and endurance [23], and gait speed and FEV1 provide insight into fitness-related organ function: mobility and lung function [8, 24].”

The researchers then used these DNAm fitness parameter biomarkers with DNAmGrimAge, a DNAm mortality risk estimate, to construct DNAmFitAge, a new biological age indicator that incorporates physical fitness. DNAmFitAge was associated with low-intermediate physical activity levels across validation datasets (p = 6.4E-13), and younger/fitter DNAmFitAge corresponds to stronger DNAm fitness parameters in both males and females. 

DNAmFitAge was lower (p = 0.046) and DNAmVO2max is higher (p = 0.023) in male body builders compared to controls. Physically fit people had a younger DNAmFitAge and experienced better age-related outcomes: lower mortality risk (p = 7.2E-51), coronary heart disease risk (p = 2.6E-8), and increased disease-free status (p = 1.1E-7). These new DNAm biomarkers provide researchers a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks.

“Our newly constructed DNAm biomarkers and DNAmFitAge provide researchers and physicians a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks and emphasizes the effect lifestyle has on the aging methylome.”

Read the full study: DOI: 

Corresponding Authors: Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Steve Horvath

Corresponding Emails:,, 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, physical fitness, biological age, DNA methylation

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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Martha Stewart Has a Spicy Take on Americans Who Want to Work From Home

This half-baked take might need to stay in the oven a little longer.



Lifestyle icon Martha Stewart has been on a roll when it comes to representing vivacious women over 60. Whether she's teaming up to charm audiences alongside her BFF Snoop Dogg, poking fun at Elon Musk, or starring as Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue cover model, Martha stays busy. 

Her most recent publicity moment, however, doesn't have the same wholesome feeling Stewart brings to the table. In an interview with Footwear News, the DIY-queen had some choice words about Americans who want to continue working from home after covid-19 lockdown shut down offices.

“You can’t possibly get everything done working three days a week in the office and two days remotely," the cozy-home guru said. "Look at the success of France with their stupid … you know, off for August, blah blah blah. That’s not a very thriving country. Should America go down the drain because people don’t want to go back to work?”

Well, that's certainly a viewpoint. A lot to unpack there. Many online were confused--after all, didn't Stewart basically make her career by "working from home?"

Sitting down with The Today Show, Stewart elaborated on her controversial stance. It seems she's confusing "work from home" with a three-day workweek. 

"I'm having this argument with so many people these days. It's just that my kind of work is very creative and is very collaborative. And I cannot really stomach another zoom. [...But] I hate going to an office, it's empty. During COVID I took every precaution. We [...] set up an office at [...] my home[...] Now we're our offices and our three day work week, I just don't agree with it," Stewart tells viewers. 

"It's frightening because if you read the economic news and look at what's happening everywhere in the world, a three-day workweek doesn't get the work done, doesn't get the productivity up. It doesn't help with the economy and I think that's very important."

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