Migration is an important driver of population change, currently accounting for around half of the population growth in England and Wales; natural change (births and deaths) accounts for the remaining population change. In the latest release, historic census data has been used to show the growth in the non-UK born population between 1951 and 2011.
Non-UK born population has quadrupled between 1951 and 2011
In 1951 there were 1.9 million non-UK born residents in England and Wales (4.5% of the usually resident population) and by 2011 this had increased to 7.5 million (13% of the resident population). In comparison the total population of England and Wales increased by 28%, from 43.7 million to 56.1 million. Underlying reasons for migrations to the UK are complex, but often include ‘push’ factors such as civil conflict, political instability and poverty, and ‘pull’ factors such as employment and education opportunities.
Non-UK born population has become more diverse since 1951
In 1951 the top ten non-UK countries of birth represented 60% (1.1 million) of the total foreign born population, compared to 45% (3.4 million) in 2011. This shows that the population has become more diverse, with the non-UK born population in 2011 less dominated by the top ten non-UK countries of birth. There are several major groups identified in this data that have continually been present in the top ten non-UK countries of birth, such as those born in Ireland, India and Poland.
Numbers of Irish-born residents in England and Wales has decreased
The Republic of Ireland was the largest non-UK born group in each census until the most recent (2011), where they were the fourth largest. In the 1951 Census there were 492,000 Irish-born residents, accounting for more than a quarter (26%) of all foreign-born residents in that year. Migration of Irish-born to the UK stretches back to the famine of the 1840s in Ireland and was associated with rapid industrialisation in Great Britain throughout the nineteenth century. This group has declined in absolute numbers over the decades, whereas many of the other top ten non-UK countries of birth have increased. This is likely to be due to those who arrived a long time ago dying and not being replaced by younger migrants in the same numbers.
Those born in India were the largest group in 2011 at 694,000
In 2011 those born in India were the largest group at 694,000. This group has consistently accounted for a large proportion of the non-UK born population of England and Wales. The largest inter-censal percentage increase for this group was between 1961 and 1971, where this population almost doubled from 157,000 to 313,000. In 1971 those born in India accounted for 10% of the whole non-UK born population.
10 fold increase in Polish migrants over ten years from 2001-2011
Polish migrants have had a very different arrival pattern to other non-UK born groups. In 1951 Polish-born was the second highest ranking group making up 8% (152,000) of the total non-UK born population. This was a result of Polish migrants arriving during and after the Second World War. The number of Polish-born residents declined, largely due to mortality, until the 2011 Census, when 579,000 were recorded in the resident population. This was almost a ten-fold increase from 58,000 in 2001; it was a result of Poland being admitted to the European Union in May 2004 along with a number of other central-Eastern European countries.
Where can I find out more about migration and Census statistics?
If you’d like to find out more, there is an infographic showing the top ten non-UK countries of birth in each census year since 1951.
These statistics were analysed by the Census Analysis Unit, Population Statistics Division at ONS. This analysis is based largely on data from the 2011 Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about the latest Census statistics, you can read the release or visit the Census or Census analysis pages. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them!