There is considerable interest in the impact of migration on the UK population, economy and society.
Part of a series of UK Perspectives providing an overview of key aspects of the nation over the last three decades, this article presents some key statistics on flows of long-term migrants into and out of the UK, and the impact of migration on the UK population.
1. UK net migration has been positive every year since 1994
Net migration is the difference between the number of long-term immigrants coming to the UK and the number of long-term emigrants leaving the UK, and contributes to population change. A long-term migrant is someone who changes their country of residence for at least 12 months.
Long-term international migration into the UK, 1980 to 2013 1
Net migration was at a relatively low level during the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1994, it has been positive every year and rose sharply after 1997.
During the 2000s, net migration increased further, partly as a result of immigration of citizens from the countries that have joined the EU since 2004. Since the mid 2000s, annual net migration has fluctuated between approximately 150,000 and 300,000.
Recent increases in net migration have been driven by higher levels of immigration coupled with stable levels of emigration. The latest provisional estimates show net migration was 260,000 in the year ending June 2014. This is an increase from 182,000 in the previous year, and continues the recent increases in net migration over the last two years.
2. Who migrates to the UK?
Long-term international net migration into the UK by citizenship, 1980 to 2013
Net migration of non-EU citizens has been higher than net migration of EU citizens since 1980.
There was an increase in net migration of EU citizens following the expansion of the EU in 2004, followed by a decline after the economic downturn in 2008. More recently net migration of EU citizens has begun to increase again, and the latest provisional estimates show that it stood at 142,000 in the year ending June 2014.
Net migration of non-EU citizens increased after 1997 and peaked in 2004. It declined sharply in 2005, and saw a further steady decrease between 2010 and 2013. However, the latest provisional estimates show an increase in net migration of non-EU citizens to 168,000 in the year ending June 2014. Overall, non-EU net migration remains at a lower level relative to the peak seen in the mid 2000s, and is now at a similar level to EU net migration.
Net migration of British citizens has remained stable over the last few years and is negative, reflecting higher emigration than immigration for this group.
3. Why do people migrate to the UK?
Main reason for immigration to the UK, 1980 to 2013 2 3
Generally, the most commonly stated reason for immigration to the UK is work, with the exception of 2009 to 2012 when formal study was the most common reason.
Since 2012, a stronger UK economy meant that immigration for work has begun to increase, particularly amongst EU citizens. Over the same period, the reduction in numbers of migrants coming to the UK to study has contributed to the overall decline in immigration of non-EU citizens.
4. Non-UK born women have more children
The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the average number of live children a group of women would each have if they experienced the age-specific fertility rates for the calendar year in question throughout their childbearing lifespan.
Total Fertility Rates (TFR) for UK born and non-UK born women, 2004 to 2013
From 2004 to 2011 there was an overall rise in the estimated TFR for all women resident in the UK, peaking at 1.98 children per woman in 2010 and dropping to 1.87 in 2013.
The TFR for UK born women has shown an increase from 1.68 children per woman in 2004 to 1.79 in 2013. In contrast the TFR for non-UK born women is falling. From 2007 onwards, there was a year on year drop in the fertility rate of non-UK born women, although it still remains higher than that of UK born women.
Given that there are substantially more UK born women of childbearing age than non-UK born women, the impact of the higher fertility rate for non-UK born women on the overall fertility rate is small, and the overall fertility rate is closely aligned with the fertility rate for UK-born women.
5. How has the non-UK born population changed over time?
Top 10 countries of birth for the non-UK born resident population, 2004 and 2013
India was the most reported country of birth of non-UK born residents in 2013. In 2004, 502,000 usual residents reported India as their country of birth; by 2013 this had increased to 734,000 (an increase of 232,000).
This is a relatively small increase compared with that seen for Polish-born residents over the same period. In 2004 there were 95,000 Polish born residents living in the UK, but by 2013 this had increased to 679,000 (an increase of 584,000), making it the second highest reported country of birth for non-UK born residents.
Many of the UK residents who were born abroad have UK citizenship. At the time of the 2011 Census for England and Wales, around a fifth (21%) of EU-born residents and more than half (58%) of non-EU born residents held a UK passport.
Over the last twenty years, net migration has been positive – increasing in magnitude in the late 1990s, and following the expansion of the EU during the 2000s.
More recently, as the UK economy recovers from the recent economic downturn, net migration has begun to increase once again – with work generally the most common reason for migrating here.
The impact of migration can be felt across the UK economy and society in the composition of the population and labour force, and also through demand for public services and housing.
See related links for other relevant data sources and analysis.
- Net migration estimates for the period 2001 – 2011 have been revised in light of the 2011 Census. Therefore, they will not be consistent with the separate immigration and emigration figures shown.
- Figures for 1980 to 1990 are International Passenger Survey (IPS) estimates, 1991 onwards are Long Term International Migration (LTIM) estimates.
- For 1995 only, looking for work was included in the "Other" category.