In 2020, the non-UK-born population was 9.5 million and the non-British population was 6.1 million; both the non-UK-born population and non-British population remained broadly stable since 2019.
Both the EU-born and non-EU-born populations remained similar to previous years; however, while the number of people with non-EU nationality also remained broadly stable, the number of people with EU nationality fell.
India continued to be the most common non-UK country of birth and Polish remained the most common non-British nationality.
London continued to be the region with the largest proportion of non-UK-born (37%) and non-British (22%) population.
The survey these estimates are based on, the Labour Force Survey, has used a new weighting methodology to reflect the change in survey operations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so data below UK, EU and non-EU level should not be compared with previous years.
The population estimates by country of birth and nationality in this release cannot be directly compared with the figures from the European Union Settlement Scheme because of differences in what the statistics measure and how they are compiled.
“Our best estimates show that while non-UK born and non-British populations remained broadly stable in 2020, the number of people living in the UK with EU nationality fell.
"However, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how our survey data were collected and the statistics produced means there is a high level of uncertainty around numbers below EU and non-EU level, which should not be compared against previous years.
"We will be updating our estimates to provide the best picture of the population as more information becomes available, in particular the results from Census 2021, which will give further insight when published next year.”
Jay Lindop, Director of the Centre for International Migration, Office for National Statistics.
Follow ONS Director of the Centre for International Migration @JayLindop_ONSBack to table of contents
Non-UK populations (non-UK-born and non-British nationals) remained broadly stable in 2020. From 2004 to 2016, a general upward trend in population size is seen; since then the populations have stabilised.
The non-UK-born population in 2020 was 9.5 million; of these, 3.5 million (37%) were born in the EU. The non-British population was 6.1 million; of these, 3.5 million (58%) held EU nationality (Table 1).
|Country of Birth
|UK born/British National
|Non-UK born/Non-British National
Download this table Table 1: Estimates of the resident population of the UK by country of birth and nationality, 2020.xls .csv
In 2020, 3.9 million British nationals were born outside of the UK. Non-EU-born were more likely to hold British nationality (54%) compared with those who were EU-born (19%). The latter increased by 4 percentage points compared with the previous year, despite the total EU-born population remaining broadly stable (Table 2).
|Country of Birth
Download this table Table 2: Country of birth of the resident population of the UK by nationality, 2020.xls .csv
The EU-born population in 2020 was 3.5 million, which is similar to levels seen in the previous year. The non-EU-born population (6.0 million) also remained broadly stable (Figure 2).
The number of EU nationals currently resident in the UK decreased from 3.7 million to 3.5 million. The non-EU-national population (2.6 million) has remained broadly stable since 2008 (Figure 3).
|Country of Birth
|Republic of Ireland
|Republic of Ireland
Download this table Table 3: Population of the UK for the five most common non-UK countries of birth and nationalities, 2020.xls .csv
India has continued to be the most common non-UK country of birth (880,000), followed by Poland (691,000). Polish remains the most common non-British nationality (738,000); Romanian is the next most common at 384,000 (Table 3).Back to table of contents
The proportion of the population in local authorities who were born outside the UK, or who held non-British nationality, varied across the country. The interactive map (Figure 4) allows you to explore these patterns in more detail.
Figure 4: Population of non-UK-born and non-British nationals varies across the country
Percentage of non-UK-born and non-British national populations in Great Britain, by local authority, 2020
- Data are unavailable for the districts of Northern Ireland.
Download the data
London has the highest proportion of non-UK populations
London remained the area with the largest proportion of non-UK-born residents in 2020; 37% were non-UK-born, whilst 22% were non-British nationals (Figure 4).
The local authority with the highest percentage of non-UK-born residents was Kensington and Chelsea (53%); this is a change from 2018 and 2019 where Brent was the highest.Back to table of contents
Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality
Dataset | Released 17 September 2021
UK residents by broad country of birth and citizenship groups, broken down by UK country, local authority, unitary authority, metropolitan and London boroughs, and counties. Estimates from the Annual Population Survey.
Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: individual country data
Dataset | Released 17 September 2021
UK residents by individual countries of birth and citizenship, broken down by UK country, local authority, unitary authority, metropolitan and London boroughs, and counties. Estimates from the Annual Population Survey.
EU27 is referred to as EU throughout this bulletin. EU27 is the sum of EU14, EU8 and EU2, plus Malta, Cyprus and Croatia (from 1 July 2013).
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Spain and Sweden.
Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Bulgaria and Romania.
The two Mediterranean countries, Malta and Cyprus, that joined the EU in 2004 and Croatia, which joined the EU in mid-2013.
Non-EU is the sum of Asia, the Rest of the World and the rest of Europe.
Rest of the World
Rest of the World is the sum of North America, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, and Oceania.
Rest of Europe
Rest of Europe are the countries remaining once EU27 and the UK have been excluded from Europe. A list of which countries are in each country group is available in the international migration table of contents.Back to table of contents
Estimates of the population of the UK by country of birth and nationality are based upon data from the Annual Population Survey (APS).
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Population by country of birth and nationality QMI.
We are transforming our migration statistics, making use of all available data to provide a richer and deeper understanding of migration. More information is available in our latest update report on population and migration statistics transformation.Back to table of contents
The Annual Population Survey (APS) is a household survey and so does not cover most people living in communal establishments, some NHS accommodation, or students living in halls of residence who have non-UK-resident parents. As a result, the population totals used in APS estimates are not directly comparable with mid-year population estimates, which refer to the entire UK population. The APS is weighted to be representative by age, sex and region, plus additional weighting for housing tenure and modelled population totals for UK, EU and non-EU country of birth was introduced following the reweighting of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in July 2021.
All estimates produced are subject to sampling variability – confidence intervals are used as a measure of the precision of the estimate.
Coronavirus and Labour Force Survey estimates
Coronavirus led to changes being made to the LFS, including introducing housing tenure and country of birth (UK, EU and non-EU) controls into the LFS weighting methodology from January 2020 onwards, as detailed in Coronavirus and its impact on the Labour Force Survey. These changes aimed to mitigate the impact to non-response bias from those with non-UK country of birth or nationality. However, it does not adjust for potential non-response bias for breakdowns below UK, EU and non-EU level, so these more detailed estimates should not be compared with previous years. This new weighting methodology uses Real Time Information employee data from HM Revenue and Customs to improve the population weights. An additional non-response adjustment was also applied using factors based on local area level information from the 2011 Census. Further information on the methods used to reweight the LFS is available in the Labour Force Survey weighting methodology.
A further impact has been that the sample size of the APS has become smaller, which leads to more variability in the estimates. Estimates for small groups, which are based on smaller subsets of the APS sample, are less reliable, subject to larger potential sample bias and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups. Therefore, users are advised to be cautious when drawing conclusions from estimates that are broken down to smaller groups, for example, by country, nationality, age or local authority.
Caution comparing migration estimates from different survey sources
The APS is not designed to measure Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) flows but does give insights into changes in our population. The population estimates in this bulletin are what we refer to as stocks. It is not possible to directly compare stocks from the APS and flows from the IPS, as outlined in our explainer blog on how we count migrants. The report on coherence of migration data sources discusses the differences in what each survey tells us about migration flows and provides a better understanding of the reasons for these in the wider context of our transformation work.
Caution comparing population by country of birth and nationality estimates with administrative data sources
When comparing data sources, users must be aware of the differences in coverage, accuracy, timing, and quality of these sources and why this can mean that they cannot be compared on a truly “like-for-like" basis. No conclusions should be drawn before each of these aspects has been carefully considered.
In particular, the population estimates by country of birth and nationality cannot be directly compared with the figures from the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). While these two data sources provide valuable insights on a particular aspect of migration, they cannot be directly compared because of differences in what the statistics measure and how they are compiled. These differences have been explained in more detail in this blog.Back to table of contents
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