India still atop UK migration table

The number of foreign-born residents living in England and Wales last year hit an all-time high of 10 million, representing one in six of the population, according to figures on international migration taken from the 2021 UK census.

Blank UK census form

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Data from the 2021 census found a 2.5 million increase over the decade in the number of residents born outside of the UK. Of the 10 million total, the census showed that 4.3 million were aged 18-29, about three million were below 18 and 2.1 million were aged 30-44.
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A decade of demographic change

India remained the most common place of birth outside the UK, with 920,000 people in England and Wales born there. But the greatest increase was seen among people born in Romania, whose numbers rose 576 per cent to 539,000 between 2011-21, primarily as a result of a lifting in 2014 of visa restrictions on Romanian citizens.Jon Wroth-Smith, Deputy Director of the Census at the Office for National Statistics, said: "The census paints a picture of how the make-up of the population has changed in the past decade. That decade, of course, saw us leave the EU as well as live with the pandemic."While these events may have had an impact on people's decisions or ability to migrate or travel at a given time, the census tells us about the change over the whole decade - who was living here in March 2021, compared with March 2011."We can see Romanians have been a big driver in this change, while there have also been increases due to migration from India, Pakistan and Poland, as well as southern European countries such as Italy."

How many people applied for the EU Settlement Scheme after Brexit?

One apparent anomaly identified by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford was that the population of people born in the European Union was 3.6 million - considerably smaller than the 5.5 million EU citizen applications to the post-Brexit EU Settlement Scheme in England and Wales.Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory, said: “One of the main reasons the number of EU citizens living in the UK on census day is smaller than the number of applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme is that people who had previously lived in the UK had left."One of the big unknowns is how many have returned over the past year and a half, or might still do so in future.”

Top ten birth countries of UK's foreign-born residents

Other census data showed that the United States and Jamaica had dropped out of the top 10 non-UK countries of birth, while Italy had entered the table in sixth place. The rest of the top 10 consisted of, in order:
  1. India
  2. Poland
  3. Pakistan
  4. Romania,
  5. Ireland
  6. Italy
  7. Bangladesh
  8. Nigeria
  9. Germany
  10. South Africa.
The English region with the highest proportion of a foreign-born population (40.6 per cent) was London.The lowest figures were recorded in Wales (6.9 per cent) and NE England (6.8 per cent).

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