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Polish now biggest migrant group in Wales, says study

By Carmarthen Journal  |  Posted: March 04, 2014

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A MAJOR analysis of the migrant population of Wales has been released today by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory.

It showed that Wales's foreign-born population increased by 82% in the last decade proportionally more than the increases in England (61%) and Northern Ireland (72%), but less than Scotland (93%).

Merthyr Tydfil saw the second biggest percentage increase in its migrant population of any district or unitary authority in Great Britain (227%) between 2001 and 2011. Wrexham, Swansea and Newport all saw their migrant populations more than double in the same period, while Cardiff saw its migrant population increase by 99% to 45,967 - Wales's largest single migrant population.

However, the profile also shows that the proportion of foreign-born people in Wales in 2011 (5.5%) was the smallest for any of the nations of the UK - compared with England: 13.8%, Scotland: 7% and Northern Ireland: 6.6%, the average for the UK as a whole was 13%. Wales’ overall migrant population was also smaller than those in eight of the nine census regions of England (the exception being the North East).

The growth in Wales's migrant population has been fuelled by a significant (1,163%) increase in it’s Polish-born population, which increased from 1,427 in 2001 to 18,023 in 2011. Polish-born people now represent Wales's largest migrant group and 95% of Polish-born people living in Wales have arrived since 2001.

About 97% of the population of Wales spoke English or Welsh as their main language. Of the 2.9% (84,436) that did not, 77% could speak English well or very well, and only 4% did not speak any English at all. This is a slightly lower than average level of English proficiency for England and Wales.

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, the Senior Researcher leading the census project at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: “Wales saw an 82% increase in its migrant population in the 10 years between 2001-2011.

“The biggest change has been the increase in the Polish-born population, which increased more than twenty-fold, becoming the biggest migrant group in Wales. This has been particularly apparent in Merthyr Tydfil which saw the second largest percentage increase in its migrant population of anywhere in Great Britain.”

“But it is worth noting that Wales has the smallest proportion of migrants in its population of all of the nations of the UK. Because Wales started with a much smaller migrant population than England – both numerically and in terms of its share of the overall population – smaller numerical growth can be considerably bigger growth in percentage terms. Nevertheless, there has been a large increase in the migrant population of Wales."

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