This briefing paper uses statistics on migrant stocks to examine trends in the EU and non-EU migrant population living in the UK since 2007. It also provides an overview of the characteristics of migrants living in the UK, including ethnicity, religion, age structure and employment. Both EU and non-EU migrant populations are divided into smaller country groupings according to common geographies.

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The migrant population of the UK since 2007

Migrant population of the UK since 2007

The number of foreign born people living in the UK increased from around 6.3 million in Q1 2007 to 9.3 million in Q4 2016. The proportion of the population born abroad grew from 10.4% to 14.3%.

The number of foreign nationals increased from 3.8 million (6.4%) to 6.0 million (9.3%). The difference between the two groups largely reflects the number of foreign born people who have obtained British citizenship over time.

EU and non-EU migrants

EU and non-EU migrants display different patterns of change over the period. The number of non-EU born people (5.7 million in 2016) has remained higher than the number of EU-born migrants (3.5 million in 2016).

EU vs non-EU migrants

In contrast, the number of non-EU nationals increased from 2.3 million in 2007 to 2.5 million in 2016, compared with EU nationals who more than doubled over the period (from 1.5 million to 3.5 million). As a result, the number of EU nationals living in the UK became larger than the number of non-EU nationals in 2014 and the gap between the two has further widened since 2015.

Age structure

A larger proportion of migrants are of working-age (16-64), compared with the UK population as whole. In Q4 2016, 81% of foreign born people of working-age, compared with 63% of all people living in the UK.

Age structure of the migrant population in the UK, Q4 2016

Age pyramid

Ethnicity and religion

In Q4 2016 around 50% of the foreign born population were White, compared with 86% of the UK population as a whole.

Christians were the largest group among both the foreign born population (50%) and Great Britain as a whole (54%). The proportion of foreign born people with no religion (18%) is half the proportion for Great Britain (36%).

Employment rate

As a whole, foreign born people were less likely to be in work than UK-born people. Employment rates, however, vary considerably by country groupings. The employment rate for EU-born people aged 16-64 (80%) was higher than for UK-born people (75%). Among non-EU countries, migrants born in countries in Oceania had the highest employment rate, while migrants born in the Middle East and Central Asia – the lowest (46%).

Employment rate by country of birth, Q4 2016

% of people aged 16-64 in work

Employment rates of migrants

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