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Facts: The Impact of Immigration on the UK Population

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 31 Jul 2015 | comments*Discuss
Uk Population Immigration Increase

In mid 2007 the population of the UK was 60,975,000. This is an increase of 388,000, or 0.6%, on the same time in the previous year. In recent decades the UK population has been growing at a faster rate than it had previously. From 1981 to 1991 the population grew at an average rate of 0.2% per year, from 1991 to 2001 at 0.3% and from 2001 to 2007 at 0.5% per year.

Factors Leading to an Increase in the UK Population

What accounts for the extra 388,000 – and why is the rate of increase picking up? There are several reasons why the population of the UK is now growing at a faster rate: the number of births has increased, people are living to an older age and the number of immigrants coming to the UK has exceeded the number leaving.

Until mid-1999 the increase in births and decrease in the death rate accounted for the largest proportion of the change in the UK population. Latterly, immigration has been the largest single factor - in part due to increased mobility of EU citizens.

In mid 2002 immigration accounted for 70% of that year’s increase in the population. Since then the different factors have levelled out to some extent – by mid 2007 48% of the increase in the population was due to the increase in birth rate relative to the decrease in the number of recorded deaths.

UK Immigration and Emigration

Immigration is only part of the picture – we also have to know how many people left the UK during a particular period. The year 2006 to 2007 saw an increase in the number of immigrants from 574,000 in the previous year to 605,000. That year also saw an increase in the number of people leaving the UK from 385,000 in the previous year to 406,000. Both numbers represent an increase of 5%.

For several years the net result has been that there are more people coming to the UK than there are leaving it. In the year leading up to mid 2007 the net increase in the population due to immigration was 198,000.

Immigration and the UK Birth Rate

The figures for 2007 suggest that the impact of immigration on the UK population was considerably lower, relative to other factors, than in previous years. The increase in the birth rate has had almost as great an impact on the figures as immigration. However, it seems that an increase in female immigrants of child-bearing age has contributed to the rising birth rate.

There were 690,013 live births in the UK in 2007 - the sixth year in a row when the rate increased. 23% of all births in 2007 were to mothers who were not born in the UK. This compares to 22% in 2006 and only 13% in 1997. The UK fertility rate is said to be higher now than it has been for 34 years.

Whilst not all of these mothers may be UK residents, it is likely that the true impact of immigration on the UK population figures is considerably higher than is suggested by looking at the immigration figures alone.

The Perceived Impact of Immigration

In some instances there may be a gap between perception and reality when it comes to the impact of immigration on the UK population. Different categories of immigrants are often clustered in particular areas. Residents of those areas may, therefore, assume that there are greater numbers of immigrants in the UK as a whole. Looking at the relevant statistics for 2007, it can be seen that asylum-seekers, new citizens and workers from EU accession countries were significantly more prevalent in some parts of the country than others.

Asylum seekers given housing by the UK authorities are accommodated in specific parts of the UK. The five regions with the greatest number of asylum seekers in accommodation provided by the state are Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East both with 21%, the West Midlands with 16%, and Scotland and the North East both with 11%. Within those regions the five local authorities housing the greatest number of asylum applicants were: Glasgow City; Leeds; Birmingham; Newcastle; and, Liverpool.

The greatest number of citizenship ceremonies took place in Greater London, which held 52% of the total. Another 12% took place in the South East. Local authorities with the highest proportion of ceremonies were: Ealing; Brent; Newham; and, Birmingham.

Based on population figures for 2005 the top five local authorities registering workers from the EU accession countries of Eastern and Central Europe were: the City of London (with 34 times the national average of accession country workers); Boston in the East Midlands; Westminster; Northampton; and South Holland, also in the East Midlands.

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