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EU citizens bring higher skills if they are born outside the EU, new analysis finds

16 Jul 2015

EU citizens living in the UK are more likely to be working in high-skilled jobs if they were born outside of the EU, a new Migration Observatory commentary shows today.

The analysis, which looks at data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, finds that the share of EU citizens living in the UK who were born outside Europe has fluctuated between 6 and 9 percent since 2004. By the beginning of 2015, this group made up an estimated 3% of the UK’s foreign-born population, equivalent to about 264,000 people. This is an increase from 78,000 in 2004, when the EU citizen population in the UK was much lower.

EU citizens born outside the EU were doing more skilled work in the UK than people born in EU countries, with 30% working in senior management and professional jobs. This compares to 22% of EU-born EU nationals.

The vast majority of EU migrants born in non-EU countries come from member states that joined the union before its enlargement in 2004 (known as EU-14 countries). The main countries of citizenship are Portugal, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. This is consistent with ONS data released in May 2015, which showed that the number of people working in the UK who were citizens of EU-14 countries, was no longer smaller than the number of those born in EU-14 countries, as it had been in previous years.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “EU migrants who were born outside the EU are a small share of the UK’s migrant population, but they have distinctive characteristics. Interestingly, they have been more successful in finding high-skilled work than people born in the EU.”

Non-EU born EU citizens are a diverse group, according to the analysis. Their countries of birth range from India and South Africa to North America and Brazil. They include people who previously migrated to other European countries and were granted citizenship after a period of residence there, as well as people born abroad with EU-citizen parents or grandparents.

Other EU countries have experienced the same phenomenon. Census data from 2011 suggest that similar shares of mobile EU citizens living in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium were born outside the EU.

Sumption added: “British citizens can live and work in other EU countries, whether they were born in the UK or not. Citizens of other EU counties have the same rights in the UK.”

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