Census: 10 million people born outside UK now living in England and Wales

The number of people living in England and Wales who were born outside the UK has risen to 10 million, driven by a huge increase in Romanians, new census data has shown.

Figures released on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a 576% rise in residents who were born in Romania – from 80,000 in 2011 to 539,000 in 2021.

According to the data, the number of usual residents of England and Wales born outside the UK had risen by 2.5 million since 2011.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

It means out of a population of 59.6 million in England and Wales, about one in six people were born outside of the UK.

The so-called “natural” population increase – the number of deaths minus the number of births – accounted for 42.5% of the rise.

The other 57.5% was as a result of “positive net migration” – the difference between the numbers of people coming to live in England and Wales and those who emigrated.

The large increase in the number of those born in Romania followed the lifting of working restrictions across the European Union (EU) in 2014, rising by 459,000 in 10 years. This was the highest increase out of any country in England and Wales, making Romania the fourth most common non-UK country of birth.

India remained the most common country of birth outside the UK – with those 925,000 people making up 1.5% of the population.

Italy also entered the top 10 non-UK countries of birth, rising to 277,000 from 135,000 between 2011 and 2021, a 106% increase.

The data showed those who listed Ireland as their country of birth declined from 407,000 in 2011 to 325,000 in 2021.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK has always been a diverse country and we celebrate that.”

The 2021 survey, carried out on March 21 last year, was filled out by more than 24 million households across England and Wales at a time after Brexit, which saw changes to immigration rules and in the face of restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Census deputy director Jon Wroth-Smith said: “The census paints a picture of how the make-up of the population has changed in the past decade. That decade, of course, saw us leave the EU as well as live with the pandemic.

“While these events may have had an impact on people’s decisions or ability to migrate or travel at a given time, the census tells us about the change over the whole decade – who was living here in March 2021, compared with March 2011.

“We can see Romanians have been a big driver in this change, while there have also been increases due to migration from India, Pakistan and Poland, as well as southern European countries such as Italy.

“We can also see that migration in the year prior to census was lower in 2021 than it was in 2011.

“This is likely, in large part, due to the various travel restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The census takes place across the UK every 10 years and provides the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in the country.

More data will be published in stages over the next two years.