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Immigration Patterns of Non-UK Born Populations in England and Wales in 2011

This story identifies the immigration patterns of non-UK born residents of England and Wales using 2011 and historic census data; it includes discussion of possible reasons for specific migrations.

Key Points

  • In 2011, 13 per cent (7.5 million) of the resident population of England and Wales were born outside the UK, compared to 4.3 per cent (1.9 million) in 1951. While the total resident population of England and Wales increased by 28 per cent (from 43.7 million to 56.1 million) between 1951 and 2011, the non-UK born population almost quadrupled. This means that migration has contributed to just under half (45 per cent) of the total population change over the last 60 years.
  • The population of England and Wales has become more diverse over the last 60 years. In 2011 the top ten non-UK countries of birth accounted for 45 per cent (3.4 million) of the total foreign born population (7.5 million), while in 1951 the top ten non-UK countries of birth represented 60 per cent (1.1 million) of the total foreign born population (1.9 million).
  • Successive censuses show large increases for some main non-UK born migrant groups in particular decades: for example, the Indian-born population almost doubled between 1961 and 1971, and the Bangladeshi-born population more than doubled between 1981 and 1991.
  • For each of the top five non-UK countries of birth in 2011 (India, Poland, Pakistan, Republic of Ireland and Germany) migration to the UK in substantial numbers began at different times. The Republic of Ireland had an earlier historical flow, with 38 per cent of Irish-born residents in 2011 arriving before 1961; by contrast 86 per cent of Polish-born residents arrived in 2004 or later following the accession of Poland to the European Union.
  • Some migrant groups recorded in earlier censuses are more likely to have remained in the UK than others, while mortality of all groups will have been differentially affected by time of arrival and age. In the 2011 Census 98,000 Bangladeshi-born people stated that they arrived in the UK before 1991; this was 94 per cent of the number of Bangladeshi-born recorded in the 1991 Census (104,000). By contrast, for the 191,000 South African born people recorded in the 2011 Census, 94,000 stated that they arrived in the UK before 2001; this was 71 per cent of the number of South-African born recorded in the 2001 Census (132,000).
  •  Underlying reasons for migrations to the UK are complex, but will include ‘push’ factors such as civil conflict, political instability and poverty, and ‘pull’ factors such as employment and education opportunities. Family and cultural links, and changes in legislation, will also affect migration to the UK.