The latest provisional estimates (published on 28 August 2014) show that net migration of EU migrants in the year ending March 2014 was 131,000, a statistically significant increase from 95,000 in the previous year. This increase was driven by a rising annual immigration of 214,000, alongside stable levels of emigration at 83,000.
The increase in EU net migration contributed to a statistically significant increase in overall net migration to 243,000 from 175,000 in the previous year.
Long-term International Migration (LTIM) estimates show that compared to the previous year there has been a statistically significant increase in immigration of citizens of the EU151 countries from 92,000 to 112,000, whilst immigration of EU8 citizens has been relatively steady at 69,000 in the year ending March 2014 compared to 63,000 in the previous year.
International Passenger Survey estimates2 show that there has been a statistically significant increase in immigration of EU2 citizens to 28,000 in the year ending March 2014 from 12,000 in the previous year. A short story on the latest estimates of EU2 (Romanian and Bulgarian) migration to and from the UK has been published. This includes details of available data to assess the impact of the lifting of transitional controls on nationals of these countries on 1 January 2014.
Figure 1: Long-term international migration of EU citizens, UK, 1975 – 2014 (year ending March 2014)
ONS also produce annual estimates on the resident population of the UK by country of birth and nationality. The latest available data was published in August 2014 and is for January to December 2013. This shows the estimated population of EU nationals in the UK was 2,507,000, this was a 7% increase compared to 2,343,000 the previous year.
How do the latest estimates compare to past trends?
As shown in Figure 1, long-term immigration to the UK from the EU steadily increased from around 20,000 per annum in the mid-1970s, to around 60,000 people per annum in the late 1990s and early part of 2000s. A step change in EU immigration occurred in 2004, when 10 countries (the EU8 plus Malta and Cyprus) acceded to the EU. In 2004, EU immigration increased in part due to increased inflows from citizens of EU8 countries3.
Figure 1 shows that EU net migration peaked in 2007. From 2008, emigration of EU citizens increased, which is likely to be related to tougher labour market conditions in the UK at that time. In 2012/2013 EU net migration began to increase again, and is now similar to the pre-downturn peak.
As shown in Figure 2, between 2005 and 2008 immigration of EU8 citizens exceeded immigration of EU15 citizens, but then declined in 2008, and has remained fairly stable ever since. Immigration of EU15 and EU2 citizens has increased over the last 12 months.
Figure 2: International Passenger Survey estimates of long-term international immigration of EU citizens, UK, 2003 – 2014 (year ending March 2014)
Why do EU migrants come to the UK?
The IPS records a person’s main reason for migration, although it should be noted that this may not be the person’s only reason for migration.
Approximately two-thirds of EU citizens immigrating to the UK in the year ending December 2013 migrated primarily for work. There has been a recent increase in immigration of EU15 citizens for work-related reasons. In the year ending March 2014 immigration of EU15 citizens for work was 69,000, a statistically significant increase from 53,000 in the previous year.
Over the last year there has also been a statistically significant increase in immigration of EU2 citizens for work to 22,000 in year ending March 2014 from 7,000 in the previous year. By contrast, inflows of EU8 citizens for work have remained relatively stable over the last year at 43,000.
National Insurance Number (NINo) allocations for the year ending June 2014 showed a 6% increase in allocations to EU nationals compared to the previous year. The largest increases in the number of allocations were to nationals of Romania (up 46,000 to 63,000), Bulgaria (up 12,000 to 22,000) and Italy (up 3,000 to 39,000). The highest number of registrations continued to be to Polish citizens (92,000).
It should be noted that a change to the process of recording NINos during the quarter April to June 2014, means that the volume of NINo registrations recorded are lower in the April to June 2014 quarter than would otherwise be the case (estimated to be around 15%-25% lower in the quarter April to June 2014 and 2%-5% lower for the year to June 2014). Therefore, comparisons of NINo registrations over time for the latest periods (quarterly and annually) should be viewed with caution. The process issues impact all nationalities i.e. the impact is not skewed to migrants from specific countries. It should be noted that NINo registrations data do not feed into estimates of long-term international migration.
Labour market statistics show an estimated 132,000 EU2 citizens were employed in the UK in April to June 2014, an increase of 4% from the same quarter in the previous year. This compares to an increase of 6% to 718,000 for EU15 (excluding British) citizens and an increase of 29% to 855,000 for EU8 citizens. The increase for EU8 citizens appears to contrast with the IPS estimates of EU8 immigration for work and may be accounted for by individuals who are already resident in the UK taking up employment, or by short-term migrants who may be included in the labour market statistics. Furthermore, there have been recent increases in the number of EU8 citizens arriving in the UK to accompany/join others (see below), and these migrants may subsequently take up employment in the UK.
Approximately 20% (38,000) long-term immigrants to the UK from the EU migrated for study in the year ending March 2014. Numbers of EU students have remained fairly stable over the last 5 years. Citizens of EU15 countries account for 26,000 of the EU students in the year ending March 2014.
Other reasons for immigrating to the UK include accompanying or joining friends and relatives, asylum and returning home to live. IPS estimates show that there was a statistically significant increase in citizens of EU8 countries immigrating to the UK to accompany or join family or friends to 9,000 in the year ending March 2014 from 4,000 in the previous year.
The EU15 (excluding the United Kingdom) comprises Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Irish Republic, Italy (including The Vatican), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The EU8 comprises Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The EU2 comprises Romania and Bulgaria. Total EU comprises EU15, EU8 and EU2 countries plus Cyprus, Malta and Croatia (from July 2013).
LTIM estimates are not available for the EU2 country grouping. LTIM estimates are approximately 90% based on data from the International Passenger Survey, but include adjustments for asylum seekers, visitor and migrant switchers and flows to and from Northern Ireland. For more information please see Long-term International Migration - Frequently Asked Questions and Background Notes.
Net migration estimates for the UK for 2001- 2011 have been revised in light of the results of the 2011 Census. The Census showed that net migration was underestimated during the preceding decade, with the largest single cause likely to have been underestimation of immigration of EU8 citizens in the years following Accession in 2004. Estimates of inflow, outflow and net migration by citizenship have not been revised. Users are advised to continue to use the existing tables, but to bear in mind the caveat that overall net migration estimates has been revised, and to refer to the published guidance note (LINK) for further assistance.