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Changes to the migrant population of the East of England 2001-2011

09 Sep 2013

The first comprehensive analysis of the migrant population of the East of England has been released today by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory.

It showed that the area now has the third largest migrant population of the ten regions of England and Wales – after London and South East England – rising from fourth place in 2001. This follows a 70% increase in the migrant population of the region between 2001 and 2011.

The region has the fourth largest proportion of foreign-born residents (11%) of England and Wales’ ten regions. This represents a smaller than average proportion of foreign-born residents (the national level is 13%) – however the impact of London’s very high proportion of migrants affects the national figures.

The changes are by no means evenly spread around the region: Fenland district has seen the fourth biggest percentage increase in its migrant population of all districts and unitary authorities in England and Wales (211%) and areas like Luton, Peterborough and Cambridge have all seen large numerical increases in their migrant populations, while many other districts in the East on England saw comparatively smaller changes.

Numbers and shares:

  • In 2011, the total usual resident population of the East of England stood at 5,842,965. About 11% of those residents (642,215) were born outside of the UK. This represents an increase of 70% in the foreign-born population of the region since 2001.
  • In 2011, 41.6% of the non-UK born population held a UK passport, and 54.7% held only a non-UK passport. The rest (3.7%) held no passport.
  • In 2011, the East of England occupied the 3rd position in terms of the population numbers and the 4th position in terms of the population share of non-UK born residents, out of the ten regions of England and Wales.

Regional distribution:

  • The biggest percentage increase in the region’s non-UK born population occurred in Fenland (a 211% increase) – this was the third largest increase in England between 2001-2011 after the neighboring districts of South Holland and Boston and the fourth largest in England and Wales (NB, Boston and South Holland districts are included in the East Midlands region rather than the East of England).
  • The Luton unitary authority had the highest number (62,872) of non-UK born residents in the region in 2011, followed by Peterborough (37,892) and Cambridge (36,381). Luton also had highest population share of non-UK born people (31%).
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the total non-UK born population grew the most in Luton (26,610 additional non-UK born residents).
  • The district of Maldon had the region’s smallest foreign-born population (2,413) and the smallest numerical increase (403) while Forest Heath saw the smallest change in the proportion of residents in the population, not changing from 23% over the ten-year period.

Migrant profiles:

  • Residents born in Poland represent the most numerous non-UK born group in the East ofEngland (62,100 residents) followed by residents born in India, Ireland, and USA and Pakistan.
  • Of those East of England residents that held only a non-UK passport (the closest proxy for foreign nationality in the census data), Polish passport holders were the largest group (60,195) while Irish passport holders come second with 39,683 residents.
  • About 95% of the population of the East of England spoke English or Welsh as their main language. Of the 5.3% (311,238) that did not, 80% could speak English well or very well, and only 3% did not speak any English at all. This is a slightly higher than average level of English proficiency for England and Wales.
  • Among those for whom English was not the main language, the most commonly spoken main language was Polish (19%), followed by Urdu (5.7%) and Chinese languages (5.3%).

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, the Senior Researcher leading the census project at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: “The East of England has seen a 70% increase in the migrant population over the last 10 years and now has the third largest migrant population of the ten regions of England and Wales. Eastern European migration for work purposes has been a significant factor in this, notably in Fenland and Peterborough, but there are many other factors too, such as student migration to cities like Cambridge and family migration to areas with established migrant populations.

“But the differences are unevenly spread, both in terms of changes to the numbers and proportions of migrants in the population. Luton, Peterborough and Cambridge have seen the largest numerical increases in non-UK born people, Forest Heath’s migrant population has remained a steady proportion of local residents, and areas like Maldon and Castle Point have seen numerical and proportional increases that are relatively small, compared to the area as a whole.“


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