Home / about / data-sources-limitations /

Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the major household survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and provides quarterly estimates of the UK resident population and workforce.


It is based on a quarterly household sample of about 60,000 UK private households. Participants are interviewed in five consecutive quarterly ‘waves’ either face-to-face or by telephone. The sample is weighted to the most recent ONS population estimates and is treated as representative of the UK population as a whole. LFS estimates are commonly used in the analysis of the migrant population and workforce as they can provide information on both country of birth and nationality, as well as ethnicity. Recently (January 2010) a question inquiring on the main reason of individuals for coming to the UK was included in the LFS.


There is under-representation of those who do not live in households (e.g. students in halls of residence who do not have a UK resident parent) as people living in communal establishments are not sampled.

It does not collect information on immigration status at the time of the interview or on arrival in the UK.

Recent migrants are also more likely to refuse to answer the survey or provide incomplete information because of language barriers and mistrust of the interviewers – especially if their residence or work status is not entirely compliant with immigration regulations.

Labour Force Survey (LFS)

 Contact Us 


This Migration Observatory is kindly supported by the following organisations.

  • University of Oxford logo
  • COMPAS logo
  • Esmee Fairbairn logo
  • Barrow Cadbury Trust logo
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation logo


Subscribe to receive emails about research and activities.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in the footer of any email we send, or by emailing migrationobservatory@compas.ox.ac.uk.
Your data will be treated in accordance with GDPR guidance.