Origin-destination data show the movement of people from one location to another. They are also known as flow data.

This information can help local and central government plan and fund infrastructure for:

  • education

  • healthcare

  • housing

  • transport

Origin-destination data are also used to analyse population movement trends for migration and commuting patterns.

Public datasets


Our public data are available to download on the Nomis website


Most public data are standalone flows and univariate datasets covering all types of origin-destination data. Most public data are available down to the local authority level, with some Workplace flow data available down to the Middle-layer Super Output Area (MSOA) level. 

Release date 

We published these datasets on the Nomis website on 26 October 2023. We also published a statistical bulletin to provide commentary on the data and a user guide to provide guidance. The most-up-to-date information on the public release can be found on the origin-destination release page.

Safeguarded datasets


Data analysts can access the data through the UK Data Service in line with previous censuses. Data analysts must register with the UK Data Service and agree to the terms and conditions of the UK Data Service End User Licence (PDF, 216KB).


Safeguarded data will contain all types of origin-destination data in more detail than the public datasets. They will be released as univariate and multivariate datasets. Most of the data will be provided at local authority level, however, data with less detailed characteristics will be provided down to the MSOA or Output Area (OA) level.

Release date 

UKDS published safeguarded data on 2 November 2023. The origin-destination safeguarded data can be accessed through UKDS website.

Secure datasets


Data are only available to accredited researchers through the Integrated Data Service (formerly the Secure Research Service, SDS). Read how to become an accredited researcher.


Secure data contain the most detailed origin-destination data. They will be released in univariate and multivariate datasets, for migration flows and student flows. These will be released down to OA level.

Release date 

Origin-destination secure data will be available in early 2024.

Types of origin-destination data

We have released four types of origin-destination data.  

Migration flow data

Migration flow data show the national and international migration of residents with a different address during the year before Census Day.

Census 2021 took place during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, where various travel restrictions including lockdowns were in place from March 2020. As a result, there was less international migration into the UK. To protect confidentiality, our public and safeguarded migration flow datasets will contain less detail on country of origin for international migrants than we provided for 2011.

Workplace flow data

Workplace flow data represent usual residents aged 16 years and over who were working in the week before the census. They show the location of workplaces in relation to an individual's usual residence. A few of the datasets also consider work-related second addresses.

Second address flow data

Second address flow data show the location of people's second addresses and how far they are from their usual residence or workplace.

Student flow data

Student flow data show migration patterns of individuals living at student term-time or boarding school addresses in the UK one year before Census Day. These people may not necessarily have been students at the time of Census 2021.

As such, student flow data:

  • includes graduates who migrated from a UK term-time address in the year before census

  • collectively includes home, EU and international students who migrated from a UK student term-time address in the year before census

  • does not include first year university students who lived at a parental address a year before census

  • does not include international students who lived outside the UK in the year before census

We have detailed the variables, classifications and geographies included in the origin-destination public, safeguarded and secure datasets in the corresponding tabs of the Origin-destination dataset specification spreadsheet.

Changes to UK origin-destination data

England, Wales and Northern Ireland held their censuses in March 2021 and Scotland held their census in March 2022. The difference in dates means we are unable to combine these data to produce a single reliable set of UK origin-destination datasets.

The initial release of public origin-destination data consisted of data for England and Wales only. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is still in the early stages of releasing Northern Ireland census data. We will aim to include Northern Ireland flow data after our initial release; however, we will need to ensure that the inclusion of Northern Ireland data does not put respondents' confidentiality at risk.

Origin-destination datasets for England and Wales included the following Scottish and Northern Ireland flows:

  • to Northern Ireland or Scotland, where usual residents of England and Wales worked in Northern Ireland or Scotland

  • from Northern Ireland or Scotland, where usual residents of England and Wales had an address in Northern Ireland or Scotland, one year before Census Day

  • to Northern Ireland or Scotland, where usual residents of England and Wales had a second address in Northern Ireland or Scotland

The Scottish geographies, based on Scotland's census in 2022, were not available at the time we produced origin-destination datasets. Therefore, where needed, we have used the Scottish geographies we used for the 2011 Census origin-destination outputs. Once the more detailed Scottish geographies become available, we will investigate how feasible it is to incorporate these into our origin-destination datasets.

Where possible and for comparability, we have harmonised datasets and output classifications across the UK and with 2011.

More information

If you have questions about Census 2021 Origin-destination data, please email census.customerservices@ons.gov.uk.

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