Census reveals big changes in most common non-UK countries of birth

Romania has jumped from being the 86th most common non-UK country of birth to the fourth in the space of 20 years, while Jamaica and Kenya have tumbled out of the top 10, census data shows.

Other new entries in the top 10 include Poland and Nigeria, but there have been sharp drops for Australia and Canada.

New analysis of the 2021 census has been released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showing how the top non-UK countries of birth in England and Wales have changed in recent decades.

India was the most common non-UK country at both the 2021 and 2011 census, and the second most common in 2001.

Ireland has slipped from first place in 2001 to fourth in 2011 and fifth in 2021.

The rest of the top 10 has seen major changes, however.

Romania ranked 86th in 2001 and by 2011 had climbed to 26, before jumping to fourth place in 2021.

Poland has risen from 18th in 2001 to second in 2021, while Nigeria is up from 14th to eighth.

But Jamaica has fallen out of top 10, dropping from sixth place in 2001 to 20th in 2021, along with the United States (from seventh to 11th) and Kenya (ninth to 21st).

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“The rise in position of both Poland and Romania is likely because they joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and therefore gained entitlement to free movement,” the ONS said.

“These changes over the last 20 years reflect a notably different picture of international migration over time.”

This is borne out by trends further down the rankings, which show China rising from being the 25th most common non-UK country of birth in England and Wales at the 2001 census to 12th in 2021, with other notable jumps for Spain (up from 23rd to 13th), Portugal (34th to 15th) and the Philippines (30th to 17th).

By contrast, leaving the top 20 are Australia, which has fallen from 11th place in 2001 to 26th in 2021, Cyprus (down from 15th to 37th) and Canada (17th to 38th).

Further down the rankings, Afghanistan is a new entry in the top 40, jumping from 55th place in 2001 to 33rd in 2021.

Both Hungary and Brazil have risen 27 places, with Hungary up from 57th to 30th while Brazil has gone from 54th to 27th.

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.

The latest census was filled out by more than 24 million households across England and Wales on March 21 2021, and came at a time that saw changes to immigration rules in the UK following Brexit, as well as restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new data also provides an insight into the employment status of people aged 16 and over living in England and Wales who were born outside the UK, or who do not hold British passports.

There were “high rates of employment” at the 2021 census for people born in parts of the eastern Europe, as well as for those born in Antarctica and Oceania, which includes countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The rate stood at 80% for people from Bulgaria and Romania, and 79% for people from the group of countries known as the EU8: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

For people both in Antarctica and Oceania the rate was 75%.

All of these figures are higher than that for people born in the UK (56%), though the ONS said this is to be expected as “the older UK-born population has a higher proportion of economically inactive people, at 35%”.

Vehicle repairs, retail and wholesale was the most common line of work at the 2021 census for both UK-born and non-UK-born migrants, followed by roles in health and social care.

Migrant workers from non-EU countries are “much more likely” to be in health and social work (accounting for 19.5% of all employees) and information and communication (6.4%) than UK or EU-born workers.

Both EU and non-EU-born workers are underrepresented in education, public administration and defence compared with people born in the UK.