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Preliminary census data suggests there were over 37,500 people who were born in Ukraine living in England and Wales in 2021. This Insight explains what this and other data can tell us.
Preliminary data from the 2021 census
The 2021 census was carried out on 21 March 2021 in England and Wales, and asked respondents about their country of birth. Full results from the census in England and Wales haven’t yet been published.
However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released preliminary 2021 census data on people born in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. The ONS explained it has done this “to help local and national emergency response planning” following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These ONS figures are just counts of responses received, rather than final census totals. They haven’t been adjusted to account for the fact that not everyone responds to the census, and they haven’t been through the ONS’s usual census quality assurance processes.
These initial figures identify approximately 37,530 people who were born in Ukraine and were ‘usual residents’ in England and Wales in March 2021.
‘Usual residents’ are people who had either lived in England and Wales for 12 months or more at the time of the census, or who planned to do so.
These figures only tell us about people who were born in Ukraine, not all of whom will be Ukrainian nationals. The figures don’t include people born outside of Ukraine to Ukrainian parents.
Where in England and Wales do Ukraine-born people live?
The ONS preliminary census data can be downloaded as an Excel file from this ONS page for local authorities in England and Wales. The table below shows the local authorities that had the largest Ukrainian populations according to this data.
All 20 local authorities with the largest Ukrainian populations were in London, with the largest populations in the boroughs of Newham, Ealing, Hounslow, and Waltham Forest.
In total, approximately 19,000 Ukraine-born people lived in London – around 52% of the Ukraine-born population in England and Wales.
Which local authorities have the largest Ukraine-born population?
Preliminary 2021 Census data on respondents usually resident in England and Wales and born in Ukraine
Outside of London, the local authorities with the largest populations were Manchester (approximately 420 Ukraine-born residents), Birmingham (320), Bristol (300), and Leeds (300).
The map below shows where people born in Ukraine live across local authorities in England and Wales.
Are there other estimates of the UK’s Ukrainian population?
The ONS also publishes estimates of the UK’s population by country of birth and nationality, based on data from the Annual Population Survey (APS).
The data is based on a representative survey sample of UK residents. Because the Ukrainian population in the UK is relatively small, the survey estimates are subject to quite a bit of uncertainty.
The ONS estimates that from June 2020 to June 2021, there were on average around 35,000 people living in the UK who were born in Ukraine, with the true value likely to be between 25,000 and 45,000 people.
Given the uncertainty associated with this figure, it is broadly consistent with the preliminary 2021 census figures for England and Wales discussed above.
The ONS also estimates that in the same year, there were around 18,000 Ukrainian nationals in the UK, with the true value likely to be between 11,000 and 25,000. When the ONS asks people questions about their nationality, it’s aiming to find out how many citizens of other countries live in the UK. This is different from asking about someone’s country of birth, as not everyone has citizenship in the country they’re born in.
But a limitation of the nationality data is that it only reports on one nationality per person – so dual nationals are only counted for one of their nationalities. This may explain why the figure for Ukrainian nationals is lower than the figure for people born in Ukraine (as well as the fact that not everyone born in Ukraine will be a Ukrainian national).
When will we know more?
The ONS will start to publish 2021 census results for England and Wales in summer 2022. This means we’re likely to see figures on the Ukraine-born population of different areas in England and Wales in summer or autumn 2022. These final figures will be quality-assured and will probably differ from those published this month.
Initial results for the 2021 census in Northern Ireland will be published by NISRA in 2022, with country of birth data planned for autumn 2022. Current plans suggest that there won’t be specific figures on Ukrainian-born people in the summary tables, although it’s possible that this will change.
The census in Scotland will take place in March 2022, which means final results are unlikely to be available until 2023.
About the author: Cassie Barton is a researcher specialising in population statistics.