Statistics have revealed that for the second year running a lower number of Nigerians have applied for National Insurance (NI) number, given only to people who are allowed to work legally in the UK.
According to figures obtained, 10,510 Nigerians applied for Nl in the 12 months leading to April 2013, compared with 13,760 in the previous 12 months, leading to April 2012.
This constitutes a 24% reduction.
The number of those who applied in the 12 months leading to April 2012 is even lower than the over 15,000 Nigerians that applied in the 12 months leading to April 2011.
These figures show that the number of Nigerians applying for NI in the UK has been dropping for the past two years.
Some commentators attribute this to the stricter immigration controls brought in by the present Conservative led coalition government. Before the 2010 General Elections in the UK the Conservative party made it an election promise to reduce the number of Net immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.
One of those commentators is Carlos Vargas-Silva, a senior researcher at Oxford University’s Centre on Migration Policy and Studies (COMPAS).
Mr Vargas-Silva believes the main aim of the latest parliamentary bill – that, among other things, imposes an obligation on Landlords to check the immigration status of tenants – is to deal with existing migrants, rather than decreasing immigration.
“One component is directed at undocumented migrants – these by definition are from non-EU countries, including African countries – and tries to make their stay in the UK more difficult. This should not affect immigration of skilled workers from African countries,” he says.
The last labour government introduced a lot of immigration policies like the IT Work Permit scheme and the Highly Skilled Migrants Program (HSMP) that the present coalition government has either restricted severely or cancelled in its entirety.
Apart from the coming into power of the conservatives, the downward trend also coincides with the global economic meltdown in 2008 that most Western countries, including the UK, are yet to fully recover from.
This economic meltdown affected the job market in Europe making less jobs available to both citizens and immigrants.
It might also not be an exercise in wishful thinking to attribute the reduction in the number of Nigerians applying for NI in the UK (partly) to better opportunities emerging in Nigeria.
Political stability, even if it is based on a corrupt system, has brought some measure of confidence back to the Nigerian market and has attracted foreign investments.
The explosive growth of the telecommunication industry that has also seen an increase in ‘E’ and ‘M’ commerce activities in Nigeria cannot be ignored.
It’s no secret that Nigerians are beginning to realise that the streets of London are not paved with gold and more Nigerians are exercising caution before uprooting themselves from Nigeria to set up base in the United Kingdom.
It is also a well known fact that a good number of Nigerians are relocating to Nigeria after a long (and usually successful) sojourn in England.
It may be too early to tell what exactly is responsible for a reduction in the number of Nigerians applying for NI in the UK. It may be that Cameron’s plans to curb net Immigration is working or Nigerians are beginning to realise the potential in Nigeria or it could very well be a combination of both factors.