Between mid-2016 and mid-2017 the size of the population grew by 1.1% - the highest amount in the Yorkshire and Humber region and the largest annual growth seen in at least the last 25 years.

The population change in Wakefield District was characterised by there being 719 more births than deaths; 2,328 more people arriving in the district from elsewhere in the UK than moving out; and 665 more people migrating in from overseas than emigrating. The stand-out statistic is the high level of net internal migration (more people arriving in Wakefield from elsewhere in the UK than moving out to elsewhere in the UK), driven by the high levels of house building in the district over the past few of years. Net international migration is continuing to fall.

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). From 2002 the number of births started to increase again 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


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. As the chart below shows, in the 12 months to the end of Q2 2018 there were 841 NI registrations by people from the EU Accession states, down from 2,110 in the 12 months to Q2 2015.

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 2011 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 2017 there have been 2,593 live births in Wakefield to mothers from the new EU states and in 2017 16.7% of all births were to mothers born outside of the UK compared to 6.9% in 2004.

Elsewhere in the Leeds City Region

Harrogate and Craven both had more deaths than births between mid-2016 and mid-2017 but positive net migration stopped the populations from decreasing (see table below). Selby's natural change (births minus deaths) was also close to zero, but high levels of house building contributed to the second-highest population growth, behind Wakefield. High numbers of births compared to deaths stopped the population in Bradford from decreasing in size, as more people left Bradford last year than arrived (although net international migration remains high). It was a similar picture in Leeds, although here the net migration was positive.

Leeds City Region components of population change, mid-2016 to mid-2017. Source: ONS

Migration Flows

The geography of internal migration in 2017 shows a large, positive net flow of people from Leeds to Wakefield, followed by lesser net numbers from Kirklees and Bradford. The largest net outflows were to Barnsley and Calderdale (more people left Wakefield District to live in these areas than arrived from these areas to live in Wakefield).

Source: ONS Mid-2017 Population Estimates

The age profile of total net migration is similar to that seen five years ago, just with more numbers in each age group. The only exception to this general picture was a small net inflow of people aged 10 to 19 into Wakefield District in 2017, compared to a net outflow five years ago - the typical pattern expected as a proportion of people aged 18 and 19 leave the district to study at university.

More interesting, perhaps, is the same comparison (between 2012 and 2017), but just for Leeds. This also shows the change to a net inflow of people aged 10 to 19, but also large increases in the numbers of children aged 0 to 9 and adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. This large net inflow of families and people of working age is most likely to being driven by the increased availability of housing in Wakefield District, relative to the situation in Leeds. Between 2012 and 2017, numbers of jobs created in Leeds was more than three times higher than the number of jobs created in Wakefield. Yet at the same time, the net number of additional homes built in Leeds was less than two times the number added in Wakefield, and this imbalance could explain some of the flows.

Source: ONS Mid-year Population Estimates

Other Resources