Census 2021 results: one in six people in England and Wales were born outside UK

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The number of people living in England and Wales who were born outside the UK has risen by 2.5 million in a decade, new census data shows

The number of foreign-born people living in England and Wales has risen by 2.5 million to 10 million in the past decade, census data shows.

People born outside the UK accounted for one in six (17%) of the 59.6 million residents of England and Wales in the 2021 census.

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Romanians have seen the biggest increase since the 2011 census. The number of people who listed Romania as their country of birth has increased six-fold in 10 years, from 80,000 in 2011 to 539,000 in 2021. In 2014, Romanians were given new freedoms to work across the European Union, before Brexit saw this replaced in the UK with a points-based immigration system which started in 2021.

India remained the most common country of birth outside the UK in 2021 with more than 900,000 residents. The United States and Jamaica have both fallen out of the top 10 non-UK countries of birth.

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.

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“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.”

Results from Scotland’s census have yet to be released. Data from Northern Ireland’s census released in September shows the proportion of its residents born outside of the UK and Ireland rose from 5% in 2011 to 7% in 2021.

Areas with the most and fewest residents born outside the UK

London has by far the highest proportion of residents born outside the UK, at two in five (41%). Of the 10,017,978 residents of England and Wales born outside the UK, more than a third (36%) live in the capital.

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The South East had the second highest proportion of residents born outside the UK, at 16%. The region with the lowest share of residents born outside the UK was the North East, at 7%.


Looking at council level, there are six London boroughs where more residents were born outside the UK than within it. These are Brent, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Newham, Harrow and Ealing.

The area with the fewest foreign-born residents was Staffordshire Moorlands in the West Midlands, at 3%.

Decline in marriage continues

The release also sheds light on the characteristics of people living in England and Wales.

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While the number of households increased, in line with the increase in the overall population, the make-up of those households is similar, with 6 in 10 being single family households and 3 in 10 being one person households. The average household size in England and Wales in 2021 was 2.4 people per household, the same as a decade ago.

For the regions in England, the largest households on average were in London, with 2.5 residents per household, and the smallest households were in the North East, with 2.2 residents per household.

Mr Wroth-Smith said: “When looking a bit deeper, we can see that the proportion of people in a marriage or civil partnership has declined, which follows the long-term trend of declining marriages. Conversely, the number of people who were never married or in a civil partnership has increased by almost 3 million.”

The ageing population of England and Wales

The population of England and Wales continues to get older, the census data shows.

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The median age in England was 40 years, and 42 years in Wales. This is higher than the median age of 39 years in England and 41 years in Wales in a decade ago. But the picture varies between urban and rural areas, and those areas with large student populations.

The region of England with the highest median age was the South West, at 44 years, and that with the lowest median age was London, at 35 years.

The ‘youngest’ local authority was Tower Hamlets in London, with a median age of 30 years, followed by Nottingham, Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester, all at 31 years.

The ‘oldest’ local authority was North Norfolk, with a median age of 54 years, followed by Rother in East Sussex, at 53 years, and East Lindsey in Lincolnshire, at 52 years.

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