What Brexit vote? The number of foreign workers in the UK is still going up, despite the EU referendum and sterling's drop

 
Jasper Jolly
Polish Work Force Leads to Largest Migration In Centuries
The number of non-UK workers has increased rapidly in the past two decades (Source: Getty)

The number of foreign nationals working in the United Kingdom has increased by 241,000 to 3.49m in the past year, despite the Brexit vote in June which was seen by many as a referendum on migration controls.

This increase was 28,000 higher than the number of UK nationals with UK jobs, which grew by 213,000 to 28.39m, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That means the proportion of non-UK nationals working in the UK stands at 10.9 per cent, as the UK reached record-high employment.

The figures suggest the vote for Brexit and the resulting cheaper pound has had little impact on the number of EU workers in the UK so far, although an authoritative picture will not be known until February, when quarterly increases are published. A cheaper pound might be seen to make migration to the UK less attractive for foreign workers.

“Limited evidence suggests the referendum outcome and subsequent devaluation of sterling has had little impact so far on the number of EU workers in the UK labour force,” said ONS statistician David Freeman.


The data continues the trend of an increasing proportion of foreign workers over the last two decades. In 1997 only 3.7 per cent of workers - less than 1m - were non-UK nationals. This proportion has grown by 7.2 per cent in the past 19 years.

Although the number of non-EU workers in the UK has more than doubled since 1997, the rise in EU migration was responsible for the bulk of this increase. In 2004, 10 countries with a combined population of 75m entered the EU in its largest single enlargement.

The figure for people not born in the UK (which also includes UK nationals born abroad) working in the UK increased even more, by 430,000 to a total of 5.55m.

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