London’s unique language landscape where 26% don’t speak English at home

crowd backs turnedMore than a quarter of Londoners don’t speak English at home.  The latest figures, for 2015, show that the proportion of people who choose another language as their first choice for speaking to family has risen to 26%.

This is a uniquely London phenomenon. Across the UK the rate is just 8.5%.  It is highest in the West Midland, where there is a significant immigrant population and in Wales, where Welsh speakers affect the numbers.

Not speaking English chart

The figures from the Office for National Statistics, based upon its Labour Force Survey,  reveal that in Newham 58% of people are using a language other than English at home. As previous data analysis by Urbs has shown, Newham is home to London’s largest Pakistani community and a significant Indian-born population.

In neighbouring Tower Hamlets, 41% are choosing another language at home above English.  The borough has the largest number of Bangladeshi-born people in the capital.

Not speaking English map

In north London, 45% in Harrow and 43% in Brent will speak other languages ahead of English among the family.  Both boroughs have large Indian-born populations.

Ealing is home to London’s largest Polish-born population, and a significant Indian-born community, which may explain why 38% of people use a language other than English at home.

The rates are only at or below the national average in 2 boroughs, Richmond and Havering.

According to the latest population estimates, 37% of Londoners, or 3 million people, were foreign-born while 23% or 2 million people are not British citizens.

This is leading to a multi-lingual city full of bi-lingual people.  Department of Education data, reported by Urbs, shows that nearly half the primary school children and 40% of the secondary pupils in London do not speak English as their first language. In some boroughs three quarters of the students speak English as a second language.

The concern for social inclusion is those who speak no English at all. Data from the last census in 2011 revealed that there are 45,000 people, mostly women, who say that they cannot speak the language.  The Prime Minister has announced a £20 million programme of English tuition but was criticised for his targeting of Muslim women, although they are the largest group.

Source data

See also

Our multi-lingual city – English second language for half of primary pupils

East London likely focal point for PM’s English tuition for Muslim women

London is more diverse than the UN or Fifa

Poles and Pakistanis help shape the multi-cultural make up of the city

What National Insurance really tells us about London’s overseas workforce

The release of the latest data on National Insurance registrations by people from overseas offers a good insight into economic migration into the UK. The headlines on the release of the data focused on the rise in Romanians. That was certainly the case, but the detailed data and longer-term trends show the changing patterns of new arrivals and give clues as to what drives people to come or stops them from doing so.

The financial year 2014-15 saw a substantial jump in the number of people from outside the UK seeking to work in London. The number registering for a National Insurance number in the capital was up by 38% on the previous year to 334,419. That’s around 40% of total registrations for the UK.

Anyone looking to work in the UK or claim a benefit needs an NI number, including the self-employed or students working part time. Although people may have been in the UK some time before they apply for a NI registration the data is seen as a useful proxy for migration rates and has the benefit of being based on hard figures rather than the survey estimates used to calculate migration totals.

The biggest and the fastest growing group are Romanians. Registrations in London increased by 200% in year, rising from 22,000 in 2013-14 to 67,000 in 2014-15.

NI all overseas

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 but were not allowed free access to work in the UK given to other EU citizens until January 2014. The number of Bulgarian registrations in London went up to a little over 18,000, a rise of 178%.

The figures show that it is not just the new members of the EU that are increasingly coming to London but people from southern Europe. After Romanians the biggest single national group last year were the 35,000 Italians.

NI leading nations

The historical data shows how there has been a strong and sustained growth in people coming to work in London from southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece) since the economic crisis of 2008.

The economic woes in southern Europe that has pushed many of its workers to the UK may also be a factor influencing the decision of Romanians and Bulgarians to come. Traditionally Romanians have headed primarily to Spain and Italy to find work outside their own country.

The change to restriction, allowing access to the UK labour market, is the trigger for the 2014 spike in what the EU refers to as the A2 countries (Romania and Bulgaria) but that spike may be sharper due to economic circumstances in their preferred southern European labour markets.

The cumulative totals for workers from Spain, Italy and Romania show the southern Europe effect. The spike in 2014 for Romanians may have been a more gradual rise since the economic downturn since 2008 if the restrictions had not been in place.

NI Sp It Rom cumulative

For the EU’s co called A8 nations, the Eastern European states of Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, the trend is steady over recent years. Led by workers from Poland registrations soared after they joined the EU in 2004. The financial crisis in 2008 led to a drop in arrivals but that there has been a gradual increase since then as the UK economy recovered.

Workers coming from Europe are the dominant overseas groups in London. In 2009/10 they accounted for 40% of London registrations. By last year that had increased to 78%.

The data for Asian registrations helps explain this change. NI registrations by people from Asia had climbed steeply in 2009 but fell sharply from 2011 onwards as the Cameron government introduced new restrictions on migrants that applied only to those from outside the EU.

Figures for the first quarter of this financial year (April – June) show registrations from Romania and Bulgaria continue to be a dominant factor. If the trend for the A8 nations from Eastern Europe is repeated then this will continue to be the story for the next few years.

Source data

See also

The importance of the London factor in overseas worker numbers

New workers stick together and head north of river as they settle in the capital

Where in the world would you like to work?

Poles and Pakistanis help shape the multi-cultural make up of the city



The rise of a new London type – the millionaire seeking second citizenship

shard above cloudsLondon has always been a magnet for money and now it seems that overseas millionaires are trying to make the capital their home in increasing numbers. A report released this month names London as the top global destination for very wealthy people seeking second citizenship or right of residence.

As previously reported by Urbs, the UK already has the highest proportion of ultra wealthy with fortunes in excess of $30 million of any country in the world. Now it seems that those who are merely millionaires are following them.

The report by New World Wealth and LIO Global, two companies that advise wealthy clients, looked at the place of residence of 60,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs in the wealth jargon) in 2000 and again in 2014.

The survey concluded that the UK was the most popular destination with London the place the wealthy chose as their second home. The USA and Singapore are the other most favoured destinations.

Country Inflow of HNWIs Number of HNWIs 2014
UK 125,000 840,000
USA 52,000 4,105,000
Singapore 46,000 223,800
Australia 35.000 248,100
Hong Kong 29,000 211,700
UAE 18,000 72,100
Canada 17,000 345,000
Turkey 12,000 100,200

The report says that applications for second citizenship and people migrating has increased rapidly since the turn of the century. This is due to unrest in their own country, concerns over security and protecting their wealth, and access to education for their families.

Most of the individuals heading for London come from China, Russia and India but it is also popular with people from the Middle East and Africa.

Researchers say that a number of factors have established London as a second citizenship hub. The international nature of the city and the English language make it attractive. They say that it is easy to move money in and of the UK and to buy property in the country. The EU open border policy makes travel easier. And the quality of schools and universities is also a factor.

The report defined a HNWI as a person with assets worth more than $1 million, excluding the value of their main home.

See also

Welcome to the city of the super rich

London is more diverse than the UN or Fifa

Foreign property investment helps London to top of global ranking


From centre to the suburbs: the outward drift of Londoners

High panoramaThere has been much discussion in the media recently of the so-called exodus from London. As reported by Urbs, this is not a new phenomenon. And the trend that is less noted is how Londoners move around the capital.

Data from the Office for National Statistics on the movement of children between boroughs reveals how families are moving from central London in an outward pattern that may be a precursor to a move out of the capital. At the same time new Londoners, often from overseas, are arriving in the central areas of the city.

Urbs looked at the data for 1 borough, Wandsworth, as a case study. As previously reported, Wandsworth is a baby-boom borough so we looked at the movement of 2,000 children in the 0-3 pre-school age bracket.

A clear pattern emerged with children moving in from other, mostly more central London boroughs and others moving out to more outlying areas.

Kid migration

The most common moves within London were to a neighbouring or nearby boroughs.

kid migration map

Half of all the movements out of Wandsworth were within London. The other half performed an exodus with the South East region proving the most popular destination.

kid migration national

So while the London exodus may be a familiar idea, a more complex pattern may be emerging of the spiral out from the centre that often fuels it.

Source data

See also

Are you a north of the river or south of the river Londoner?

A London exodus? But wait, isn’t the population growing?


A London exodus? But wait, isn’t the population growing?

M25 near HeathrowThe “exodus” of Londoners to provincial pastures new is a familiar story and it received further validation with the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. The ONS gathers data on how people move across the regions of England and Wales, and London was the clear loser.

In 2014 nearly 273,000 people headed out of the capital while 204,000 arrived, a net reduction of nearly 70,000. But at the same time the population of London grew by 487,000 meaning London alone accounted for nearly half the population rise of the UK, as previously reported by Urbs.

So if there are so many people leaving that it is considered by some to be an exodus is the population simply growing because those left behind are having more babies? Well yes, but as usual, it’s a little more complex than that. So to help understand the picture more fully Urbs looked at a number of pieces of data.

London loses more people to other areas than any other region of England and Wales. Last year the only other areas that had a net reduction in people moving to or from other parts of the country were Yorkshire, the North West of England and the West Midland.

exodus 1

When those figures are expressed in terms of people per 1,000 head of population the difference between London and the rest of the country is very clear, and it appears that many are boosting the population of the South West.

exodus 2

This movement out of London to elsewhere in the country is an established lifecycle pattern documented by the ONS. Many young Londoners leave the city for higher education; many more arrive looking for jobs after graduation. People then move out in their 30s and 40s when they’ve had children.

This behaviour affects the demographic profile which leads to a growing population. Tower Hamlets, for example, had net outward migration but it also has the youngest age profile of the boroughs in the capital with an average age of just 31, as reported here.

So more babies yes, and people are living longer. London has a lower proportion of over 65s than the UK but the city has seen some of the highest rises in life expectancy among men, and women in London have the longest life expectancy in the UK.

The other big factor that the “exodus” idea does not account for is people from overseas. London is a truly multi-national city and last year half of all new Londoners, 244,000 people, were born outside the UK. As the ONS has recognised: “London is also the most common region of first residence for international migrants to the UK and some of these may later move to other regions, potentially also with children.” In other words, they do the same as many of the rest of us.

This story would not be complete without the well-worn quote from Dr Johnson of “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” While many are getting tired it would appear that many more have what Iggy Pop called a Lust for Life….in London.

Migrations data

Population data

Life expectancy data

See also

London drives UK population growth

Younger workforce makes capital’s population pensioner poor

Go east young man – it’s where young London lives

Women in London will live longer than anywhere in the UK