UK census data tracks changes in foreign-born arrivals

by Ray Clancy on June 22, 2015

Almost half of people living in the UK who were born abroad have described themselves as being from a white ethnic group while 33% identified as Asian, official data shows.

Figures from the 2011 Census, which have now been released by the Office of National Statistics, also show 13% label themselves African, Caribbean or British black.


The data reveals how Britain’s population has changed over the years.

The data also reveals how Britain’s ethnic population has changed over the years. Previously the country’s migrant population was dominated by ethnic minorities from Commonwealth countries such as the Caribbean, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, but almost a third are now from Europe.

Before 1981, 485,000 migrants moved to the UK from the Indian sub-continent, more than twice the number of Europeans, but between 1981 and 2000, the numbers arriving from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh started falling and from 2001 on arrivals from the European Union increased.

Since then, around 1.5 million migrants moved to the UK from Europe, compared to just 600,000 from South Asia, with most of the European workers arriving after UK borders were opened to the bloc of eight former Communist countries in Eastern Europe.

Of the 2.1 million migrants from Europe living in the UK, 528,000 are from Poland, 100,000 are from Lithuania and 80,000 are from Romania. According to the figures, some 94% of the half a million Poles in the UK arrived between 2001 and 2011, following the country’s membership in the EU.

Alongside Eastern European migrants, there are also 130,000 migrants from France, 135,000 from Italy and 80,000 from Spain.

The ONS confirmed that was a ‘substantial increase in migrants following the number of Central and Eastern European countries joining the European Union in 2004’.

More than one in eight foreign-born residents classified themselves as Caucasian British, of which the largest group were German-born, with half of them arriving before 1981. One likely reason is due to British military personnel being stationed in Germany. The next largest group identifying as White British were from South Africa.

Overall, the country has a broad range of ethnic groups and there are 7.5 million people living within its borders who were born outside of the UK.

The data also shows that a high proportion of residents who were Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan-born identified themselves as Asian at 69%, 68% and 58% respectively.

Additionally, the country is still predominantly Christian, according to the census. Of the foreign born population, some 48% identified as Christian, some 19% as Muslim and 14% said they had no religion.

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