The mid-2019 population estimate for Wakefield District is 348,312 people. This represents a 0.9% increase on the previous year, the second highest annual growth in the region after Selby (up 1.7%). Selby, like Wakefield, has seen a lot of house building in recent years.

As seen last year, the most prominent component of change is net internal migration. Around 2,400 more people moved to Wakefield District from elsewhere in the UK than left. The remainder of the growth was comprised of 370 more births than deaths and 420 more people arriving in Wakefield from overseas than leaving.

Immigration has contributed to the numbers of births. Between 2005 and 2018 there were around 3,500 live births in Wakefield District to mothers from the EU A10 states and in 2018, 16.6% of all births were to mothers born outside the UK, compared to 6.9% in 2004.

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 2019 there were 962 NI registrations by people from the EU Accession states, around half the number that registered in 2015.

Immigration of workers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa slowed when changes to immigration policy came into effect in 2011. Numbers of NI registrations by people from these areas rose again during 2019, particularly Gambia (60), Sudan (29) and Eritrea (25). There were also increases in NI registrations by people from Asia, particularly Pakistan (80), Iran (51), India (47) and Iraq (28). Nationally in 2019, the grant rate of asylum application was high for people from Eritrea, Sudan and Iran, so it is likely that some of the people from these countries registering for NI in Wakefield in 2019 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-2017 and mid-2018, 1,300 people were estimated to have arrived from overseas, and 650 people left. The age profile of people arriving from overseas is fairly young, although people of all ages are represented. The age profile of international out-migrants is similar.

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.

Elsewhere in the Leeds City Region

Harrogate, Craven and York all had more deaths than births between mid-2018 and mid-2019 but positive net migration stopped the populations from decreasing (see table below). High numbers of births compared to deaths stopped the population in Bradford from decreasing in size, as more people migrated away from Bradford last year than arrived - for the eighth year running.

Leeds City Region components of population change, mid-2018 to mid-2019. Source: ONS

Migration Flows

The geography of internal migration during 2018 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-2019 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-year 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 around 22 unaccompanied asylum seeking children [UASC] being looked after by the local authority at the end of March 2018. 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

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