How many Londoners move to other parts of the UK?

Published: 27th Apr 2012

"The large number of Londoners who move to other parts of Britain every year — well over 200,000 in 2009 — tend to be less well qualified than the slightly smaller quantity who make the opposite journey and the still smaller number arriving from abroad"

The Guardian, 27 April 2012

Following apparent revelations that the London council of Newham is attempting to re-house benefit claimants to, among other places, Stoke-on-Trent - a story denied by the Government - the Guardian today commented on the wider issue of affordable housing in the capital.

According to the newspaper, over 200,000 Londoners are voluntarily moving to other parts of the country every year. This is larger than the "slightly smaller quantity" who move into London from elsewhere in the UK, and much larger than the "still smaller" number arriving from abroad.

So can we back these figures up?


Figures on how many people are moving to and from different parts of the UK are measured as "Inter-regional migration movements". They are found by calculating how many people re-register with General Practitioners (GPs) in the NHS.

The National Health Service Central Register, General Register Office for Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency provide the data, along with the Office for National Statistics who add an analysis of student movements (to account for late re-registrations among this group of people).

The data for London is published in a series of Focus on London reports on behalf of the Greater London Authority. These compile analyses of, among other topics, poverty, educational achievement, population and employment in the capital.

The Focus on London 2010 report on 'Population and Migration' provides us with the answers we need:

The map above shows that, in 2009, approximately 216,000 people left the capital for other regions of the UK. By far the largest cohort of these people moved to the South East, and a considerable number also moved to East Anglia.

Meanwhile, around 178,000 were measured as entering London from other parts of the UK. This is the "slightly smaller" quantity referred to by the Guardian. 

The large numbers of movements between the South East, East and London are not surprising, according to the report:

"The 2001 Census showed that over two-thirds of moves in the UK were of less than 10 kilometres therefore it is not surprising that inter-regional moves between the UK's only city-region and its two neighbours, the East and South East, should be four of the top five inter-regional flows"

The data also shows us that the age distribution of these movements is not even. As we might expect, young people aged between 20 and 29 make up a substantial proportion of people moving into the capital. It is also the only age group in which people coming in outnumber people moving out:

The same report also provides infromation on 'international migration flows' which are derived from the Office for National Statistics estimates of long-term migration. These in turn collate data from the UK Border Agency's administrative systems and the International Passenger Survey (IPS).

The figures show that long-term migration into London, in 2008, stood at just over 160,000. Meanwhile long-term migration flows out of London and to abroad stood at just over 110,000.

It should be remembered that these figures are now dated, showing information from three and four years ago. In addition, the internal flows are only measured using GP registrations and so the data have obvious imperfections in the number of movements they can detect.

The Guardian's claims that the numbers moving out "tend to be less well qualified" is more difficult to prove. The dataset does not provide information on the educational status of the people moving within the UK. Full Fact has contacted the Guardian for more information on this.


The data from 2009 backs up the Guardian's claims. The number of people moving out of London to the rest of the UK in that year was around 216,000 while the number making the opposite journey stood at around 178,000.

Meanwhile the number entering London from abroad stood at over 160,000, while the number leaving to live abroad was around 110,000.

It should be stressed that, not only is this data several years out of date, the internal migration data is based on GP re-registrations. As such, the figures are likely to underestimate the true number of flows taking place.


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