The latest analysis of the 2011 Census data has revealed the differences in employment and qualifications between UK and foreign nationals aged 16 and over. The percentage of foreign nationals economically active was 71%, compared with 67% of UK nationals. Analysis of economic activity in this story treats study as a main activity due to its importance for migration. When those whose main activity was full-time study were removed, foreign and UK nationals had a similar proportion economically active (65% and 64% respectively). Additionally, a higher proportion of UK nationals were aged 65 and over, and were therefore more likely to be economically inactive.
The most common occupation group for both UK and foreign nationals was ‘professional,’ with 18% of UK nationals and 20% of foreign nationals in this group. The proportion of UK nationals with degree level or above qualifications was lower than foreign nationals at 30% and 38% respectively.
Economic activity of UK and foreign nationals born outside the UK
The economic activity1 data identified differences in levels of employment within the non-UK born population, between UK and foreign nationals. The majority were economically active employed and this was the case for 61% of non-UK born UK nationals and 60% of foreign nationals. There was a higher percent of economically inactive2 non-UK born UK nationals at 28%, compared with 18% for foreign nationals. Although, the larger proportion of retired non-UK born UK nationals could have affected this result.
We can also see in the chart below that 20% of foreign nationals were students, more than double the proportion of UK nationals (6%). This difference relates to the length of residence in the UK as those who have gained UK nationality are likely to have been resident longer. Also, the younger age structure of the foreign nationals and the large numbers of recent immigrants who have come to the UK to study, as reported in the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, are likely to have contributed to the difference.
Figure 1: Main economic activity of non-UK born usual residents age 16 and over by nationality
Occupations of UK and foreign nationals
The data also showed the most reported occupations3 for UK nationals compared with foreign nationals. The most common occupation group for both UK and foreign nationals proved to be professionals. These are the types of jobs that require a degree level qualification or higher and included occupations such as dentistry, teaching and law. The second most common group for UK nationals was associate professional and technical, for instance laboratory technicians, prison officers and paramedics. For foreign nationals, the second most common occupation group was elementary, which included jobs such as security guards, cleaners and bar staff.
The occupation groups for the top ten foreign nationalities were also analysed compared with UK nationals. The highest proportion of professional, managerial and technical occupations were held by American, French and German nationals; these included roles such as teachers, marketing directors and paramedics. In contrast, the highest proportion in elementary occupations was Polish and Portuguese nationals. For UK nationals, just under half were in skilled or semi-skilled occupations such as caring and service occupations.
Figure 2: Occupational structure for top ten foreign nationalities and UK nationals age 16+
Qualifications of UK and foreign nationals
The highest qualification gained was also analysed by nationality. Almost half of UK nationals over 16 were qualified at levels 1-3, which is up to and including A-level or equivalent. For foreign nationals the most common qualifications were at degree level or above. A quarter of foreign nationals also held other qualifications, including foreign qualifications for which the UK equivalent was not known.
Figure 3: Highest level of qualification for usual residents age 16 and over by nationality
1Economic activity data reflects activity of the individual at the time of the census (March 2011).
2This category includes retired, looking after family/home and long-term sick/disabled.
3Occupation is derived from a person’s main job titles and details of the activities involved in their job.
These statistics were compiled and analysed by the Census Analysis Team in the Population Statistics Division at the ONS using 2011 Census data. If you’d like to find out more about the economic and social characteristics of international migrants you can read the full report and see further stories from the census. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d like to hear them! Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.