The mid-2020 population estimate for Wakefield District is 351,592 people. This represents a 0.9% increase on the previous year, the second highest annual growth in the region after Selby (up 1.2%). Selby, like Wakefield, continues to see relatively high house building rates.

The number of births in the year to mid-2020 was similar to previous year, but COVID-19 contributed to an increase in deaths. Natural population change (births minus deaths) remained positive, but was closer to zero than has been seen for some time. Net internal migration continues to be a prominent component of population change, with around 2,500 more people moving to Wakefield District from elsewhere in the UK last year than leaving. Internationally, 718 more people arrived in Wakefield from overseas last year than left, an increase on the previous year.

Immigration has contributed to the numbers of births. Between 2004 and 2019 there were 3,859 live births in Wakefield District to mothers from the EU A10 states. In 2019, 17.4% of all births were to mothers born outside the UK, compared to 6.9% in 2004.

Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates (LG Inform API)


The registrations for National Insurance numbers by adult overseas nationals provides further details regarding immigrants who are working. 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. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the National Insurance number registration processes for overseas nationals.

Immigration of workers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa held up during 2020, but numbers from Africa fell. At country level, in 2020 the highest number of NI number registrations were for people from Poland (183), India (97) ,Romania (48), Portugal (44), Pakistan (41), Gambia (32), Iran (31), Iraq (31), Spain (23), Eritrea (23), Nigeria (21) and Sudan (19). Nationally, the latest available settlement data (to May 2020) shows high numbers of people from Iran, Eritrea and Sudan having their claims for asylum granted. It is, therefore, likely that some of the people from these countries registering for NI in Wakefield in 2020 are refugees. The number of people who have migrated into Wakefield for work and subsequently returned to their country of origin is not known.

Net international migration peaked around 2007 and has fallen back gradually since then. Between mid-2019 and mid-2020, around 1,200 people were estimated to have arrived to reside in Wakefield District from overseas, and 500 people left. The age profile of people arriving from overseas is fairly young (a lot of people in their twenties), although people of all ages are represented. The age profile of international out-migrants is similar.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions

Elsewhere in the Leeds City Region

Barnsley, Harrogate, Craven and York all had more deaths than births in the year between mid-2019 and mid-2020 but positive net migration stopped the populations from decreasing (see table below). Calderdale saw a very small decrease in its estimated population, and was the only district to see negative net migration (more people leaving than arriving).

Leeds City Region components of population change, mid-2019 to mid-2020. Source: ONS

Migration Flows

The geography of internal migration between mid-2019 and mid-2020 shows a large, positive net flow of people from Leeds to Wakefield, followed by smaller net numbers from Kirklees and Bradford. The largest net outflows were to Barnsley and the East Riding of Yorkshire (more people left Wakefield District to live in these areas than arrived from these areas to live in Wakefield).

Source: ONS Mid-2020 Population Estimates

The age profile of internal migration shows the impact of migration to and back from university among the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups respectively. Otherwise, the positive net migration is fairly evenly distributed across all the remaining adult age groups.

Source: ONS Mid-2020 Population Estimates

Asylum Seekers

Some asylum seekers are housed and supported in Wakefield District through the Home Office dispersal system. Published Home Office figures show the number of people being supported in Wakefield while awaiting a decision on their claim [known as Section 95 support]: the figures include people who are being accommodated, and people receiving subsistence-only support i.e. no accommodation. These figures do not include those in ‘initial’ or ‘induction’ accommodation awaiting dispersal accommodation across the region.

At the beginning of 2004 the District was housing around 500 asylum seekers. This number declined steadily over the next ten years. Numbers being supported have started to increase again since the beginning of 2018.

Source: Home Office

There were also 17 unaccompanied asylum seeking children [UASC] being looked after by the local authority at the end of March 2020. These are children who are in the UK without family and have claimed asylum in their own right. They are separate to the dispersal system for asylum seekers described above.

Source: Department for Education (LG Inform API)

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