Romania becomes fourth most common foreign country of birth for UK residents

census application form on a computer
census application form on a computer

Romania has jumped from the 86th to the fourth most common country of foreign birth in the space of 20 years, census data shows.

The surge in east European migration has also seen Poland jump to second in the table, from 18th in the 2001 census, just behind first-placed India which was second to Ireland 20 years ago. Ireland has slipped from first place in 2001 to fourth in 2011 and fifth in 2021.

Among the biggest falls are Commonwealth countries with Australia, Canada, Jamaica and Kenya seeing sharp drops as China has surged as have European nations like Spain and Portugal who have, until Brexit, enjoyed decades of free movement into the UK.

The 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.

Jamaica falls, China climbs

Romania, ranked 86th in 2001, climbed to 26 in 2011, before jumping to fourth place in 2021. Nigeria is up from 14th to eighth. But Jamaica has fallen out of the 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).

China has risen from 25th most common non-UK country of birth 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.

Employment status insight

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 eastern Europe, as well as for those born in Oceania, which includes countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The rate stood at 80 per cent for people from Bulgaria and Romania, and 79 per cent for people from the group of countries known as the EU8: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. For people born in Oceania the rate was 75 per cent.

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

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 per cent of all employees) and information and communication (6.4 per cent) than UK or EU-born workers.

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