One born every minute? How many migrants arrive in the UK and how many children do they have?

Published: 4th Jun 2018

In brief

Claim

Every five minutes, 70 children will be born in the UK, 20 to mothers not born here.

Conclusion

Incorrect. In 2016 the equivalent of around seven children were born every five minutes, of whom around two were born to mothers not born in the UK.

 

Every five minutes 60 people migrate to the UK.

 

Incorrect. The equivalent of around five and a half people migrated to the UK every five minutes in the year to September 2017. Net migration was around two every five minutes.

Claim 1 of 2

“In the next five minutes 70 children will be born in the UK, 20 of those to mothers not born here. 60 people will have migrated here in that time as well.”

Steven Woolfe MEP, 22 May 2018.

These figures are incorrect, the accurate figures are ten times lower in each case. Mr Woolfe has since corrected his tweet.

Around 775,000 children were born in the UK in 2016—the latest year for which data is available. Of those children, 210,000 were born to mothers not born in the UK, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

That works out at about seven births every five minutes, not 70, of which two were born to mothers not born here, not 20.

It’s also incorrect to say that every five minutes 60 people migrate to the UK. Again, the figures are around 10 times too high.

Around 580,000 immigrants came to the UK in the year ending September 2017—according to estimates for the latest year figures are available for. That works out at about five and a half every five minutes, not 60.

And that’s the total number arriving. The net figure (i.e. the number arriving minus the number leaving) is around 245,000, or two every five minutes.

The migration figures used here are collected by interviewing people leaving and arriving in the UK at airports, ferry terminals and other routes in and out of the UK. Broadly speaking, if someone plans to come and live in the UK for more than a year they are counted as an immigrant, if they plan to live outside the UK for more than a year, they are counted as an emigrant.

From these interviews the Office for National Statistics estimates the level of immigration and emigration to and from the UK, but the figures have a wide margin of error. The ONS says that they are confident the true level of net migration will fall within 42,000 of the reported headline figure of 244,000 (they’re 95% confident the correct figure lies somewhere between 203,000 and 286,000).

Update 4 June 2018

We've added that Mr Woolfe has since corrected his tweet.


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