Are one in nine UK workers migrants?

Published: 13th Apr 2017

In brief


One in nine UK workers are migrants.


About one in nine UK workers were estimated to be foreign nationals in 2016.


Free movement of people across the EU means that migrants now fill one in nine jobs in Britain.


About one in nine UK workers were estimated to be foreign nationals in 2016, including nationals from outside the EU. This proportion has been increasing, which the ONS has said is mostly down to EU immigration.

Claim 1 of 2

A reader asked us to check today’s Daily Express front page:

“FREE movement of people across the EU means migrants now fill one in nine jobs in Britain, official figures have revealed”

Daily Express, 13 April 2017

The BBC also covered these figures.

The figures in the headline are correct, if you define a migrant as a foreign national.

About one in nine workers in the UK were foreign nationals in 2016, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That’s about 11%.

There is no consensus on the definition of a ‘migrant’, as the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has discussed.

The other way you could define a migrant is anyone born outside the UK. About one in six people in employment in 2016 were born outside the UK (using a different set of data from ONS). That’s about 17%.

The ONS has said that of the rise in non-UK nationals working in the UK since 1997, “this increase…reflects the admission of several new member states to the European Union”.

Since 2000, about three quarters of the increase in the number of non-UK citizens working in the country was accounted for by a rise in those from inside the EU.

Almost all of the increase since 2010 came from a rise in the number of foreign workers from inside the EU.

In the past we’ve also looked at the evidence surrounding the impact of immigration on jobs and wages, welfare benefits, public finances, and local public services.

We’ve discussed the most recent immigration figures in our guide to EU immigration to the UK.


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