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House of Commons Library publishes briefing on the migrant population of the UK

Date of Publication: 
8 August 2017

Report examines trends in the EU and non-EU migrant populations living in the UK since 2007

House of Commons Library publishes briefing on the migrant population of the UK

08 August 2017

The House of Commons Library last week published a usefully concise and factual look at the migrant population of the UK over the last decade. You can download it here.

In the 24-page briefing paper, the House of Commons Library examines the trends in the EU and non-EU migrant populations living in the UK since 2007, and it provides an overview of the characteristics of migrants living in the UK, including ethnicity, religion, age structure and employment.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has urged people to research and check facts and figures when discussing immigration and the House of Commons Library briefing will, no doubt, prove a useful and reliable place to start.

The briefing paper distinguishes between the 'foreign born' and 'foreign national' population, though the House of Commons Library notes that both definitions have limitations as measures of the migrant population.

Some of the key points from the briefing are:

• The number of foreign born people living in the UK increased from around 6.3 million in Q1 2007 to 9.3 million in Q4 2016. The proportion of the population born abroad grew from 10.4% to 14.3%.

• The number of foreign nationals increased from 3.8 million (6.4%) to 6.0 million (9.3%). The difference between the two groups largely reflects the number of foreign born people who have obtained British citizenship over time.

• EU and non-EU migrants display different patterns of change over the period. The number of non-EU born people (5.7 million in 2016) has remained higher than the number of EU-born migrants (3.5 million in 2016).

• In contrast, the number of non-EU nationals increased from 2.3 million in 2007 to 2.5 million in 2016, compared with EU nationals who more than doubled over the period (from 1.5 million to 3.5 million). As a result, the number of EU nationals living in the UK became larger than the number of non-EU nationals in 2014 and the gap between the two has further widened since 2015.

• The migrant population is not distributed equally across the countries and regions of the UK. London is the region with the highest proportion of migrants: foreign born people comprised 38% of all residents, while foreign nationals made up 23%.

• A higher proportion of people born in non-EU countries live in London, relative to EU-born residents. People born in EU8 countries [1] were the most evenly distributed across the UK regions.

• A larger proportion of migrants are of working-age (16-64), compared with the UK population as whole. In Q4 2016, 81% of foreign born people were of working-age, compared with 63% of all people living in the UK.

• In Q4 2016 around 50% of the foreign born population was White, compared with 86% of the UK population as a whole.

• Christians were the largest group among both the foreign born population (50%) and Great Britain as a whole (54%). The proportion of foreign born people with no religion (18%) is half the proportion for Great Britain (36%). Muslims were the second largest religious group among the migrant population of Great Britain.

• In Q4 2016 there were around 5.6 million foreign born people in employment (18% of the total). As a whole, foreign born people were less likely to be in work than UK-born people. Employment rates for migrants, however, vary considerably among country groupings. The employment rate for EU-born people aged 16-64 (80%) was higher than for UK-born people (75%). Among non-EU countries, migrants born in countries in Oceania had the highest employment rate (87%) and migrants born in the Middle East and Central Asia the lowest (46%).

• A smaller share of EU-born migrant were employed in high skilled occupation than non-EU migrants. 21% of EU migrants were employed in elementary occupations, compared with 8% of non-EU migrants. 27% of people born outside the EU were employed in professional occupation, well above the share of EU-born (18%) and UK-born people (20%).

Also of interest for anyone wanting facts and figures on the migrant population in the UK is the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford's report here and the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) bulletin on the population of the UK by country of birth and nationality available here.


[1] Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia