Poland and Romania are origin of highest number of expats in the UK

by Ray Clancy on April 26, 2016

More people have moved to the UK from Poland, Romania, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Portugal than any other European Union countries, new research has found.

Some 80% of people who have moved to the UK since 2011 have come from these six countries, according to a new analysis by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The number from Poland increased by 203,000, from Romania by 136,000, from Spain by 74,000, from Italy by 50,000, from Hungary by 46,000 and from Portugal by 44,000.


It looks at the pulling power of the UK for migrants in southern Europe, analysing key domestic and international factors that could have made the UK an attractive destination for EU migrants in recent years.

While some of the factors encouraging migration to the UK are permanent, such as the attraction of the English language and the presence of well-established migrant communities here, others have the potential to change over time, says the research.

It adds that economic factors like high unemployment in southern Europe and lower wages in Eastern Europe, for example, are likely to be key drivers of recent migration. How they will evolve in coming years is difficult to predict.

The research shows that the gap in average disposable incomes between UK and Poland, adjusted for purchasing power, has almost halved since the mid-2000s, but the gap with Romania remains significant.

It also suggests that there is no single factor driving high levels of EU migration in recent years. Some drivers are the relatively low wages in new EU member states, others are more transient such as high unemployment in Spain.

The report notes that it is too early to tell how the introduction of the National Living Wage will affect migration and while it may increase the financial advantage of moving to the UK from a lower income EU country, it could also push UK employers to rely less on low wage workers, including those from the EU.

“Despite recent debates about the role of UK policies like welfare benefits or the minimum wage in driving migration, migration may respond more to factors that governments don’t directly control, like demographics and economic growth in other EU countries,” said Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Observatory

The analysis also points out that recent increases in migration from key southern and eastern European countries have taken place despite declining numbers of younger people who are the most likely to migrate in those countries.

For example, the population of 20 to 34 year olds in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain has declined by 6.3 million, or about 15%, since 2006.

In the year ending September 2015 the majority, 71%, of EU citizens coming to the UK for at least one year reported that they were coming for work and 58% of those people already had a job lined up.

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