In 2018, the proportion of live births in England and Wales to mothers born outside the UK fell for the first time since 1990, decreasing from 28.4% in 2017 to 28.2%.
There were 471,476 live births to women born in the UK, and 185,569 live births to women born outside the UK, decreasing by 3.1% and 3.7% respectively compared with 2017.
In England and Wales in 2018, the number of deaths of people born in the UK exceeded the number of live births to UK-born mothers for the first time since comparable datasets were first available in 2008.
The estimated total fertility rate (TFR) for women born outside the UK rose slightly from 1.97 children per woman in 2017 to 1.99 in 2018, the first increase since 2012
The TFR for UK-born women decreased from 1.71 children per woman in 2017 to 1.63 in 2018, reaching the lowest level since 2004 when figures were first calculated.
Poland and Pakistan remained the most common countries of birth for mothers born outside the UK, although the percentage of live births to women born in these countries fell in 2018.
Pakistan has been the most common country of birth for fathers born outside the UK since figures were first produced in 2008, however Romania rose up the rankings and replaced Poland as the second most common country of birth for foreign-born fathers in 2018.
“In 2018, just over one in three children born in England and Wales had at least one parent who was born outside the UK. These parents could be long-time residents who moved here when they were younger, or those who moved to the UK more recently. However, today’s figures also show the first decrease in the proportion of live births in England and Wales to non-UK-born mothers since 1990. And the first decrease for non-UK-born fathers since our time series for them began in 2008.
"Poland and Pakistan remain the most common countries of birth for non-UK-born mothers and fathers respectively. Romania is now the second most common country of birth for non-UK-born fathers and the third for non-UK-born mothers.”
Kathryn Littleboy, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, Office for National Statistics
Follow Vital Statistics Outputs Branch on Twitter @NickStripe_ONS.Back to table of contents
Important information for interpreting these birth statistics:
Birth statistics represent births that occurred in England and Wales in the calendar year, but include a very small number of late registrations from the previous year
Figures are compiled from information supplied when births are registered as part of civil registration, a legal requirement
Country of birth is collected at birth registration, unlike ethnicity or migration history; not all women born outside the UK will be recent in-migrants; similarly, the UK-born will include the children of earlier in-migrants (the second and third generation)
The total number of live births in England and Wales fell by 3.2% in 2018 to 657,076. Live births to UK-born women fell by 3.1% (14,941 fewer births) while live births to non-UK-born women fell by 3.7% (7,082 fewer births). The proportion of live births to non-UK-born women was relatively stable from 1969 (when our time series began) until 1998, fluctuating between 11.3% and 13.6%. A period of sharp increases followed, with the proportion of live births to non-UK-born women reaching 24.1% by 2008. From 2009 the rate of increase began to slow (Figure 1).
In 2018, births to non-UK-born mothers accounted for 28.2% of all live births, compared with 28.4% in 2017. This is the first drop in the proportion of births to mothers born outside the UK since 1990. Despite the decline, the proportion was still high in comparison to previous years. In addition, the proportion of births to non-UK-born fathers decreased for the first time since 2008 when the data were first available (28.0% of all live births in 2018 compared with 28.1% in 2017).
In 2018, births in England and Wales to mothers born in the European Union (EU), excluding the UK, represented 10.6% of all live births compared with 10.5% in 2017. This was the 10th annual increase in a row, although the rate of the increase has slowed since 2015. In contrast, the percentage of births to mothers born in the Middle East and Asia or in Africa continued to decline. They now account for 9.2% and 4.7% of all live births respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of babies whose mothers were born in the Americas and Caribbean (1.7%) increased slightly in 2018.
Taking a wider UK focus, Scotland also experienced a decrease in the proportion of live births to women born outside the UK (17.3% in 2018 compared with 17.4% in 2017). In contrast, in Northern Ireland, provisional figures show that 13.6% of live births were to women born outside the UK in 2018, an increase from 13.0% in 2017.
As a result, in the UK as a whole, the percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers fell to 27.0% (provisional) in 2018, compared with 27.1% in 2017.Back to table of contents
A comparison of trends in births and deaths in England and Wales over time shows a natural increase (more births than deaths) in every year since records began in 1838, with the exception of 1976 and 1977. However, the difference between the total number of births and deaths has been decreasing in the last decade. In 2018 there were 115,487 more births than deaths, while in 2012 there were 230,343 more.
But when comparing births to UK-born mothers only, against the deaths of people born in the UK, we see the first natural decrease (more deaths than births) since comparable datasets were first available in 2008 (Figure 2). In 2018, there were 471,476 live births to UK-born mothers and 487,618 deaths of UK-born persons registered in England and Wales.
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The total fertility rate (TFR) depends on the size of the female population of childbearing age and the number of births. TFRs provide a timely measure of fertility levels. They are sensitive to changes in the timing of births within women’s lives.
The estimated TFR for women born outside the UK rose slightly from 1.97 children per woman in 2017 to 1.99 in 2018, the first increase since 2012. However, the rate remains much lower than the rate of 2.48 in 2007, the highest value on record. In contrast, the estimated TFR for women born in the UK continued to decline and reached a record low of 1.63 children per woman (Figure 3).
The population of UK-born women of childbearing age increased slightly (0.8%) in England and Wales in 2018, while the number of live births to UK-born mothers declined by 3.1%. As a result, estimated TFRs for UK-born mothers in 2018 decreased by 4.7% compared with 2017 and 12.8% compared with 2012 (where we saw the highest value since it was first recorded in 2004).
Both the non-UK-born female population of childbearing age and the number of live births to non-UK-born women decreased in 2018, while the estimated TFR for non-UK-born women rose by 1.0% (Table 1). This can be explained by the increases in the age-specific fertility rates for non-UK-born mothers aged under 20 years, 20 to 24 years and 30 to 34 years.
|Number of live births||Population||Total fertility rate|
15 to 44
15 to 44
Download this table.xlsx .csv
The top 10 non-UK countries of birth of mother remained fairly similar in 2018. Poland, Pakistan and Romania remained the three most common countries of birth for women born outside the UK who gave birth in England and Wales in 2018. However, the percentage of births to mothers born in Poland (2.9%) and Pakistan (2.4%) fell by 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points respectively. Meanwhile, the proportion of babies whose mothers were born in Romania continued increasing, from 2.0% in 2017 to 2.3% in 2018.
Romania has been the highest climber since 2012, when it appeared for the first time in the top 10 (figure 3). In 2007 (when Romania joined the EU) there were only 1,248 live births in England and Wales to Romanian-born mothers. Despite the overall decrease in the number of births to foreign-born women in recent years, the number of births to Romanian-born mothers rose from 13,717 in 2017 to 15,196 in 2018. As a result of the recent increases in births to Romanian-born mothers, Romania became the sixth most common country of birth for non-UK-born mothers in England and Wales in 2013, before rising to fourth in 2015 and third in 2017.
Figure 4: Since entering the top ten most common countries of birth for non-UK-born mothers in 2012, Romania has been the highest climber, but Poland remains the most common
Ten most common countries of birth for non-UK-born mothers, England and Wales, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018
- Figures include mothers whose usual residence is outside England and Wales.
The number of Romanian-born fathers has also been rising consistently since 2008, whereas the number of fathers born in Poland or Pakistan have been gradually decreasing in recent years. As a result, Romania has been increasing in the ranking of most common countries of birth for non-UK-born fathers in England and Wales, reaching fourth position in 2016, and then second in 2018 (Figure 4). However, despite 1,179 fewer births in 2018 compared to 2017, Pakistan remained the most common country of birth of non-UK-born fathers. In contrast, Poland (1,772 fewer births) fell to the third position, the lowest since records began in 2008.
Increases in births to Romanian-born parents are caused mainly by the increasing size of the Romanian-born population living in the UK.
Figure 5: Romania rose in the ranks to become the second most common country of birth for non-UK-born fathers in 2018, overtaking Poland
Ten most common countries of birth for non-UK-born fathers, England and Wales, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018
Figures include fathers whose usual residence is outside England and Wales.
Figures for fathers include a very small number of births to second female parents. See Quality and methodology section.
In 2018, the most common age group for both UK-born and non-UK-born women giving birth was 30 to 34 years with 31.5% and 34.6% of births to women in this age group respectively (Figure 6).
A higher proportion of UK-born mothers were aged under 30 years (47.4%) in comparison to foreign-born mothers (36.4%). When we look at country of birth by continent, the proportion of those giving birth who were aged under 30 years varies a lot. For those giving birth and born in the EU, 40.8% were under 30 years, and for those born in the rest of Europe, it was 43.4%. In contrast, this proportion was 31.1% for mothers born in Africa, and 24.8% for mothers born in the Americas and Caribbean.
This could be explained by looking at differences in the age distribution of the populations of women of childbearing age in England and Wales, where a greater proportion of non-UK-born women are aged 30 years and over, compared with UK-born women.
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In 2018, the English region with the highest percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers was London (57.1%), and the North East had the lowest (11.9%). This is in line with long-standing trends since 2001.
For the third year in a row, Brent was the local authority of England with the highest percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers (75.4%), while Copeland had the lowest (3.0%). The local authority outside of London with the highest proportion of non-UK-born mothers was Slough with 65.2%.
When making comparisons between 2007, when data were first available, and 2018, Boston and Tower Hamlets are the local authorities with the biggest change in the proportion of live births to non-UK-born mothers. In Boston it increased from 23.2% to 42.3%. In contrast, Tower Hamlets had the greatest decrease, from 67.5% in 2007 to 60.4% in 2018.
In Wales, 11.7% of babies born in 2018 had a mother born outside the UK. Cardiff remained the Welsh local authority with the highest percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers (28.2%) and the Isle of Anglesey had the lowest (3.5%). Newport is the local authority in Wales where the proportion of non-UK-born mothers has increased the most, from 15.2% in 2007 to 24.6% in 2018. Meanwhile, the largest decrease was recorded in Ceredigion where it fell from 10.3% in 2007 to 6.3% in 2018.
These variations in the percentage of births to women born outside the UK are because of local area differences in the percentage of resident women born outside the UK, and to different fertility levels of migrants born in different countries. The composition of the foreign-born population in terms of individual countries of birth, varies considerably between local authorities (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Boston has seen the largest increase in the percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers since 2007
Percentage of live births born to non-UK-born mothers by local authority district, England and Wales 2007 to 2018
In 2018, 34.7% of babies born in England had at least one parent born outside the UK, a small decrease from 34.8% in the previous year. Similarly in Wales, 14.7% of babies had at least one non-UK-born parent in comparison with 14.8% in 2017. Table 7a provides the number and percentage of live births where one or both parents were born outside the UK, for all local authority areas in England and Wales.Back to table of contents
This is the first time that detailed country of birth statistics for England and Wales have been published for 2018. The headline figure, 28.2% of live births in England and Wales in 2018 were to foreign-born mothers, was published on 1 August 2019.
Birth statistics are used for planning maternity services, to inform policy decisions and resource allocation, for example, deciding numbers of school places required. They also enable the analysis of social and demographic trends.
The Births Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:
- the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
- uses and users
- how the output was created
- the quality of the output, including the accuracy of the data
Our User guide to birth statistics provides further information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to births and includes a glossary of terms.
The Revisions policy for population statistics (including birth statistics) is available.
The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of live children that a group of women would each have if they experienced the age-specific fertility rates of the calendar year in question throughout their childbearing lives. It provides a timely measure of the current intensity of childbearing. Our User guide to birth statistics provides further information. The estimated TFRs for UK- and non-UK-born women have been produced using estimated populations from the Annual Population Survey (APS) for the denominators.
Live births to UK-born mothers and non-UK-born mothers do not sum to total live births because a small number of records do not have the mother’s country of birth stated. In 2018, there were 31 records where the mother’s country of birth was not stated.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 contained provisions enabling two females in a same-sex couple to register a birth from 1 September 2009 onwards. Because of the small numbers, live births registered to a same-sex couple (1,791 in 2018) are included in the figures, with the country of birth of the second female parent being included under the country of birth of father.Back to table of contents
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