Data from the EU Settlement Scheme Demonstrates the Challenge of Estimating the Population of EU Migrants Living in Wales
In this blog, Stephen Drinkwater, Professor of Economics at the Business School in the University of Roehampton and academic lead for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) Data Linkage Project, looks at the latest data available on applications made to the Home Office for EU Settled Status and how this data is helping to shape the project being led by ADR Wales.
The EUSS Data Linkage Project is using a range of de-identified data held in the SAIL Databank, to provide insights into key areas of Welsh Government policy. These insights include the outcomes of EU migrants in relation to education and the labour market, and what type of health services these individuals have been accessing in comparison to other control or reference groups.
An important change to migration in light of the Brexit result was the announcement in 2018 that all EU citizens living in the UK would need to apply for the EUSS if they wanted to continue residing in the UK. Applications for settled status can be made by people who had resided in the UK for at least five years up until the end of 2020. Those who had been in the UK for less than five years have to apply for pre-settled status in the first instance and then for settled status once they have been in the UK for five years. Children aged under 21 can also obtain settled status if at least one of their parents has been granted such status, even if they have been in the country for less than five years.
In recent months detailed data on EUSS applications has been released by the Home Office for countries within the UK indicating that a total of 98,600 EUSS applications had been made in Wales between August 2018 and June 2021, compared with 6,015,400 in the UK as a whole.
In the period up to March 2021 in Wales, Cardiff was the unitary authority with the highest number of applications (21,200), followed by Newport (9,450) and Swansea (8,120). The only other unitary authorities where more than 5,000 EUSS applications had been made were Wrexham (7,940) and Flintshire (7,520).
Of these applications:
- 82,960 had been concluded with a decision made.
- 58% of the applications were for settled status and 39% for pre-settled status.
- The remaining 3% were either refused, withdrawn, void or invalid.
In terms of nationalities:
- The highest number of applications were made by Polish nationals, who accounted for 32% the Welsh total.
- The next highest number of applications came from Romanian nationals, who accounted for 15% of the Welsh total.
- Other nationalities each accounted for less than 7% of the Welsh total.
- Interestingly, over 2,000 applications were made by people with nationalities from outside the European Economic Area.
83% of Welsh applications were made by people aged between 18 and 64 and 14% by those aged under 18. This age profile was very similar to that of EU applicants in England and Scotland, but older than applicants from Northern Ireland.
It is important to obtain accurate estimates of EU nationals living in Wales so that more informed policy decisions can be made and appropriate services be provided for these groups. However, there has been some debate as to the reliability of using EUSS applications as a record of EU nationals living in the UK. For example, the number of people registering on the EUSS is much higher than estimates of EU nationals living in the UK produced from sources such as the Annual Population Survey (APS). This is because the latest data from the APS (relating to July 2019-June 2020) indicates there were an estimated 3.51 million EU nationals living in the UK, which is far lower than the 6.01 million EUSS applications that have been made. The relative discrepancy in Wales is smaller: the APS estimated a population of 78,000 EU nationals compared to 98,600 Welsh EUSS applications. This suggests that a large number of EUSS applications may have been made by individuals who no longer live in the UK, or that the APS has underestimated the number of EU nationals.
EU citizens living in the UK needed to have completed their application for settled or pre-settled status by the end of June 2021. However, some estimates suggest that many thousands of people have yet to do so, including those on benefits and vulnerable groups such as young people who have grown up in care, victims of modern slavery, and Roma individuals. The scheme is expected to stay open for many years in order to receive late applications and applications for settled status from those who were given pre-settled status. The continued updating of information on registrants on the scheme should enable the Welsh Government to design policies that meet the needs of EU citizens more effectively.