Between mid-2015 and mid-2016 population change in Wakefield was characterised by there being 822 more births than deaths; 1,286 more people arriving in the district from elsewhere in the UK than moving out; and 959 more people migrating in from overseas than emigrating. The stand-out statistic is the net internal migration (more people arriving in Wakefield from elsewhere in the UK than moving out to elsewhere in the UK). As a percentage of population change (+0.39%) it wasn’t as high as Craven (+1.16%) or Selby (+0.49%), but in numbers terms it was the highest in the Leeds City Region by a large margin. This growth is being driven by the high levels of house building in the district over the past couple of years. Overall, the increase in the size of the population between 2015 and 2016 is the largest seen in at least the last 25 years.

Between 1991 and 2001 the number of deaths per year remained fairly constant, but there was a steady decline in births. Population growth would have ceased had it not been for an increase in net migration (see chart below). The number of births started to increase again from and economic migration from Eastern Europe kept up net migration between 2003 and 2007. There was a fall in immigration during the economic downturn, but at the same time net internal migration (within the UK) started to increase to its present high level.

Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates


One useful indicator of immigration tends is registrations for National Insurance numbers by adult overseas nationals. In Wakefield district, there was a large increase in these registrations by people from the EU Accession states from 2004 onwards (see chart below). This flow of migrant workers, principally from Poland, slowed during the economic downturn and then rose again to a peak in 2015 – since when, numbers registering for NI have fallen again markedly. There has also been a recent increase in immigration, for work, from the longer-established EU countries, particularly from Spain, Portugal and Italy – 406 people in the last two years. Immigration of workers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa has slowed since changes to immigration policy came into effect in 2011. The number of people who have migrated into Wakefield for work and subsequently returned to their country of origin is not known.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions

It is not known precisely how many people born elsewhere in the EU are currently living in the district, but the Census and more recent ONS population data suggest the number could be between 13,000 and 20,000 people. Nor do we know precisely how many of these people are currently employed in the district’s economy. At the time of the 2011 Census the number was around 5,600 but a further 11,000 National Insurance numbers have been issued to EU-born immigrants living in Wakefield since then.

Immigration has contributed to an increase in births. Between 2004 and 2016 there were 2,584 live births in Wakefield to mothers from the new EU states and in 2016 16.4% of all births were to mothers born outside of the UK compared to 6.9% in 2004.

Elsewhere in the Leeds City Region

Harrogate is the only authority in the Leeds City region that saw a decrease in its population between mid-2015 and mid-2016 (see table below). High numbers of births have helped Bradford’s population grow, while net migration is negative - more people are leaving Bradford than arriving. Growth in Leeds is being driven by natural change (more births than deaths) and immigration. And within Leeds, 26% of live births in 2015 were to mothers born outside the UK (it was 34% in Bradford). Selby’s high level of internal migration is, like Wakefield’s, being driven by a house building boom (see table below). Craven’s net internal migration is also high, but it’s less clear what is causing this. Craven also had the most marked amount of negative natural change, with higher numbers of deaths than births.

Leeds City Region components of population change, mid-2015 to mid-2016. Source: ONS

Migration Flows

In the mid-2015 estimates there was a marked change in the age profile of net internal migration, and this trend continues. Before 2015, the majority of net internal migration was among people in their twenties. In the last couple of years, however, the numbers of people in their thirties, forties and fifties migrating to the district has increased. Of this group, the largest net inflows were from Leeds (412 people), Kirklees (182 people) and Bradford (102 people).

Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

In 2015-16 there was also a marked increase in net internal migration of people in the twenties. A proportion of these are likely to young people returning after their university courses have finished. In 2016 the most popular out-migration destinations for people aged 18 or 19 were Leeds, Sheffield, Kirklees, York and Newcastle. For people of all ages, the largest net inflows of people in 2016 were from Leeds (675 people), Kirklees (339 people) and Bradford (175 people). In 2015 the net inflows from these three authorities were 710, 150 and 90 respectively. The largest net outflow in 2016 was to Barnsley (111 people).

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