Migration Flows of A8 and other EU Migrants to and from the UK
This briefing discusses migration of European Union (EU) citizens (excluding British citizens) to and from the UK. A special focus of the briefing is on A8 citizens – citizens of eight countries that joined the EU in May 2004 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and A2 citizens – citizens of the two countries that joined the European Union (EU) in January 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania).
- The accession of eight East European countries (A8 countries) to the EU in 2004 led to a significant increase in the inflow of EU citizens to the UK. The average annual Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) inflow of EU citizens (excluding British citizens) for 2004-2011 was around 170,000, compared to 67,000 during 1997-2003.
- LTIM estimates suggest that net-migration of A8 citizens was 40,000 in 2011. During 2004-2011, LTIM data suggest that total net-migration of A8 citizens was 393,000.
- A8 citizens accounted for close to 14% of total LTIM inflows to the UK in 2011, a share that has decreased since the 2007 peak (about 20%).
- Results from the 2011 Census suggest that 2.7 million residents of England and Wales were born in other EU countries. About 1.1 million of those (41%) were born in countries which joined the EU in 2004 or afterwards. This includes 579,121 residents who were born in Poland and 79,687 residents born in Romania.
- The number of A8 citizens working in the UK number was estimated at 658,000 in the third quarter of 2012 according to the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
- The number of National Insurance Number (NINO) allocations to A8 citizens in the first quarter of 2012 was 35,540. This represents a decrease from the peak in the first quarter of 2007 (111,440). The number of NINO allocations to A2 citizens in the first quarter of 2012 was 6,190.
- The income gap between the A8 countries and the UK suggests that there still exists an incentive for migration.
Understanding the evidence
In UK immigration debates, EU citizens are a key group as they enjoy free movement within the European Union; hence, the UK Government cannot limit their immigration under EU law.
With the exception of the UK, Ireland and Sweden, all other EU countries decided to temporarily restrict labour market access to migrants from the A8 countries upon accession to the EU. This was possible because the accession agreements allowed existing member states of the EU to impose restrictions on the immigration of citizens from the new member countries for a maximum of seven years. In the UK, A8 citizens were able to freely and legally take up employment from May 2004 as long as they registered with the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS). This requirement ended in 2011. The UK imposed restrictions on the access to labour markets of A2 citizens. These restrictions will end in 2014, when citizens of these countries will have the same right as all other EU citizens to live and work in any country in the union.
Four main data sources provide information about EU migration and migrants in the UK (see evidence gaps and limitations below to understand challenges associated with these sources):
Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) estimates of the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS): provides data on immigration, emigration and net-migration of EU and A8 citizens based on a standard definition of a long-term migrant as a person who moves to a country for at least a year. The International Passenger Survey is the main source of information for these estimates (see the briefing on 'Long-Term International Migration Flows to and from the UK').
Labour Force Survey (LFS) data from the ONS: provides data on EU, A2 and A8 migrants in the UK labour market.
2011 Census data for England and Wales: provide information on the stock of EU migrants in the UK, including separate estimates for those who were born in countries which joined the EU in 2004 or afterwards. The census is an official count of the population and provides better estimates of the population characteristics in local areas.
National Insurance Number (NINO)allocation data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): provide information about the allocations of new numbers to EU, A8 and A2 workers. These can provide an idea of the number of citizens from these countries that enter the UK labour market.
The high level of immigration from the A8 to the UK after accession (653,000 for the 2004-2011 period) was unexpected. Analysis at the time of the accession (Dustmann et al. 2003) suggested that flows were going to be much smaller. Due to a lack of historical data on migration from A8 countries to the UK, the projections for post-enlargement immigration from the A8 countries to the UK were based on a model whose parameters had to be estimated using data from other countries. Another problem with the projections was that this large-scale migration contrasts with the dynamics of previous EU accessions such as Spain and Portugal. In those cases, there were no significant migration movements (Vargas-Silva, 2011).
Figure 1 uses data from the LTIM to show the inflows, outflows and net-flows of long-term international migrants (i.e. those saying that they intend to stay in the UK for at least 12 months) from the EU and A8 for the period 1991-2011 based on country of citizenship. During 2004-2011, total net-migration of A8 citizens was 393,000. A8 net-migration during 2011 was 40,000. This represents a decrease of 9,000 net-migrants from the 2010 level.
Inflows of EU migrants were mainly flat for the 1991-2003 period, averaging close to 61,000 per year. With the inclusion of A8 citizens in the EU estimates in 2004, there was a significant jump in estimated EU migration inflows to the UK and the average annual inflow for the period 2004-2011 was around 170,000 migrants. EU inflows account for close to 31% of total migration inflows, a share that has remained somewhat stable since 2005 (see Figure 2). A8 workers accounted for close to 14% of total (and 44% of EU) migration inflows to the UK in 2011, a share that has decreased since the 2007 peak (about 20%).
According to the 2011 Census 2.7 million residents of England and Wales were born in other EU countries. 1.1 million were born in countries which joined the EU in 2004 or afterwards
The results from the 2011 census suggest that 2.7 million residents of England and Wales were born in other EU countries. About 41% of those were born in countries which joined the EU in 2004 or afterwards (1.1 million). The number of Polish born residents in England and Wales was 579,121 and the number of Romanian born residents in England and Wales was 79,687. About 27% of all Polish born residents in England and Wales live in London, while this number is 56% for Romanians.
In 2008 the number of A8 citizens in the UK labour market stabilised, but it started to increase again during 2010
Figure 3 presents the level of employment of A8 migrants (based on nationality) using the ONS estimates from the LFS. There is a clear increase in the level of employment all the way to the first quarter of 2008, at which point the number stabilised at around 500,000. However, the number started increasing again in 2010. Currently the number of A8 citizens in employment in the UK stands at 658,000 (third quarter of 2012).
The number of NINO allocations to A8 citizens in the first quarter of 2012 was 35,540. The respective number for A2 citizens was 6,190
Figure 4 provides the number of NINO allocations to citizens of all the EU countries, all the A8 countries, Poland and A2 countries. The inflow dynamics presented by NINO allocations are similar to the ones suggested by the LTIM data. Until 2004 the numbers were small and then there was a steep increase until 2007 (first quarter). At that peak, quarterly NINO allocations to A8 citizens were about 111,000 (first quarter of 2007), and of those, 81,000 were from Polish workers. Since then there has been an overall downtrend in NINO allocations to A8 citizens, including Polish workers. The latest estimate for the first quarter of 2012 is 35,540 allocations for A8 citizens and 16,790 for Polish citizens.
Figure 4 also shows NINO allocations for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania. The peak for NINO allocations for A2 citizens was the third quarter of 2008 (12,630) and the latest number for the first quarter of 2012 was 6,190. Interestingly NINO allocations for A2 workers tend to peak during the summer months and decrease afterwards, suggesting seasonal working patterns for A2 citizens.
The income gap between the A8 countries and the UK suggests that there still exists an incentive for migration
Figure 5 reports the average annual gross national income (GNI) per capita of the A8 countries (excluding Poland), the annual GNI per capita of the A2 countries, the annual GNI per capita of Poland, and the annual GNI per capita of the UK. Even six years after the accession there remains a significant gap in per capita income; especially for Poland, the demographic giant among the A8 countries. This sustained income differential between the UK and the A8 countries suggests that there still exists an incentive for migration from the A8 to the UK. Likewise, there is a substantial gap in per capita income between the A2 countries and the UK, which should encourage further migration in the future.
Evidence gaps and limitations
The ONS’s LTIM estimates rely heavily on the IPS, an imperfect data source – it is a sample survey, is voluntary and relies on people outlining their intentions. (See the Data Sources and Limitations section of the Migration Observatory website for further discussion of the limitations of this data source). Likewise, the LFS is a voluntary sample surveys and while it provides data on A8 and other migrants in the UK, certain groups are excluded, such as those who do not live in a “household” – which would include students living in dormitories, or people living in hostels or bed and breakfast accommodation. NINO allocations do not indicate when a worker leaves the country and are, therefore, just a rough measure of inflows and not of the stock of migrants. The effectiveness of NINO allocations for measuring inflows is also limited because not all migrants request a number (Sumption and Somerville 2010).
- Dustmann, C., M. Casanova, I. Preston, M. Fertig, and C. M. Schmidt. “The Impact of EU Enlargement on Migration Flows.” Home Office Online Report 25/03, Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the UK, Home Office, London, 2003.
- Office for National Statistics. “Polish in the UK.” Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, ONS, Newport, August 2011.
- Sumption, M. and W. Somerville. “The UK’s New Europeans: Progress and Challenges Five Years after Accession.” Policy Report, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Manchester, 2010.
- Vargas-Silva, C. “Lessons from the EU Eastern Enlargement: Chances and Challenges for Policy Makers.” CESifo DICE Report, Journal for Institutional Comparisons 4 (2011): 3-7.
- Blanchflower D. and H. Lawton. “The Impact of the Recent Expansion of the EU on the UK Labour Market.” IZA Discussion Paper 3695, Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, 2008.
- Coombes M, T. Champion and S. Raybould. “Did the Early A8 In-migrants to England Go to Areas of Labour Shortage?” Local Economy 22 (2007): 335–48.
- Dustmann, C., T. Frattini, and C. Halls. “Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK.” Fiscal Studies 31 (2010): 1-41.
- Lemos, S. and J. Portes. “The Impact of Migration from the New European Union Member States on Native Workers.” Working Paper 52, Department for Work and Pensions, London, 2008.
Migration Observatory briefing - Long-Term International Migration Flows to and from the UK
Thanks to Agnieszka Kubal and Will Somerville for helpful comments and suggestions in an earlier version of this briefing.