What does the census for 2021 reveal about the population of England and Wales?

Firstly, the usual resident population in both countries grew by more than 3.5 million (6.3 percent) in the time since the last census – from 56,075,912 in 2011 to 59,597,542 in 2021.

Other key points released by the Office for National Statistics include:

  • One in six usual residents of England and Wales were born outside the UK, an increase of 2.5 million since 2011, from 7.5 million (13.4 percent) to 10 million (16.8 percent)
  • India remained the most common country of birth outside the UK in 2021 (920,000 people, 1.5 percent of all usual residents)
  • Since the previous census, the number of people who were born in Romania grew by 576 percent from 80,000 in 2011 to 539,000 in 2021
  • Some 5.9 million usual residents (9.9 percent) held a non-UK passport; the most common non-UK passport held was Polish (760,000, 1.3 percent of all usual residents).
  • 545,000 usual residents (0.9% of the population) had an address outside the UK one year before the census, down 11.0% from 612,000 (1.1%) in 2011.

Population change

Births, deaths and internal and international migration play their part in the changes in the size of population. The data on live births and death registrations reveals the proportion of the population change that is attributable to natural causes and that which is caused by migration.

From April 2011 until the end of March 2021, there were 6.8 million live births and 5.3 million deaths registered in England and Wales. This is a natural increase of approximately 1.5 million usual residents (42.5 percent of the total population increase).

The remainder of the population growth (approximately 2 million usual residents, 57.5 percent of total population increase) is due to positive net migration (the difference between those who immigrated into and emigrated out of England and Wales), meaning that more than half the population increase since 2021 is because of migration.

Born outside the UK

The census has been collecting information of where people are born since 1851. Out of the 59.6 million residents in England and Wales in 2021, 83.2 percent (49.6 million were born in the UK and 16.8 percent (10 million) were born outside of the UK. The size of the non-UK born population has risen since 2011, when it was 13.4 percent or 7.5 million people.

Those born in the EU made up 3.6 million (36.4 percent of all non-UK born usual residents) of the population, an increase from 2.5 million (32.7 percent) in 2011 (including Croatia, who joined the EU in 2013). The remaining 6.4 million (63.6 percent) were born outside the EU, up from 5.1 million (67.3 percent) in 2011.

This continues a longer-term trend of an increasing proportion of non-UK born residents being from within the EU.


There was a large increase in the number of people in England and Wales who were born in Romania. The three most common non-UK countries of birth for usual residents in 2021 were the same as in 2011 – India, Poland and Pakistan.

Ireland is still within the top 10 of non-UK countries for non-UK born residents but was the country for which there was the greatest decrease – from 407,000 in 2011, to 325,000 in 2021, a decline of 20.3 percent.

The number of people in England and Wales who were born in the US increased between censuses (from 177,000 in 2011 to 203,000 in 2021), but greater increases for other countries means it is no longer in the top 10.


In 2011, the census started asking for information about passports held by residents as a way of measuring migration statistics, as it can identify those who hold dual or multiple nationalities. Overall, the results from Census 2021 show that 51.6 million usual residents (86.5 percent) held at least one passport; 8.0 million (13.5 percent) did not have a passport, down from 9.5 million (16.9 percent) in 2011.

The number of people with UK passports increased from 42.5 million (75.7 percent) in 2011 to 45.7 million (76.7 percent) in 2021. Those who held a non-UK passport also increased, from 4.2 million (7.4 percent) in 2011 to 5.9 million (9.9 percent) in 2021.

Some 3.9 million people without UK passports hold EU passports, an increase of 72.5 percent from 2011 when 2.3 million people has passports from the same EU countries.

London – largest proportion of people born outside the UK

London remains the region with the largest proportion of people born outside the UK and with non-UK passports. The 2021 Census shows that more than 4 in 10 (40.6 percent) usual residents in London were non-UK born, a small increase since 2011, when 36.7 percent of London residents were non-UK born.

In contrast, Wales (6.9 percent) and the North East of England (6.8 percent) had approximately 1 in 14 usual residents born outside the UK. Of the top 20 LAs with the highest proportion of non-UK born residents, 18 were in London.

The census asked respondents if the address they filled out the census form was the same as their address one year before (that is, on 21 March 2020).

In 2021, 545,000 usual residents (0.9 percent of the population) said their address one year before the census was outside the UK. This is a decrease compared to 2011, when 612,000 (1.1 percent) had an address outside the UK one year before the census.

The decline had been expected because of the pandemic and the travel restrictions in the UK and throughout the world.

The census provides estimates of the characteristics of all people and households in England and Wales on Census Day, 21 March 2021. It is carried out every 10 years and gives the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in England and Wales. The response rate for Census 2021 was 97 percent of the usual resident population.

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 2 November 2022, ONS website, statistical bulletin, International migration, England and Wales: Census 2021