City of Edinburgh Council

Open Data Portal


In common with other parts of the UK, the number of Edinburgh residents born outside the UK has shown considerable increase over the past decade. At the time of the 2011 Census almost 16% of the Edinburgh residents were born overseas, almost double the level recorded in 2001 and well above the Scottish average of 7%. These changes are reflected in data on International in-migration flows to the city. During the ten years to 2013/14 Edinburgh recorded more in-migrants from outside the UK than any other Scottish Local Authority and accounted for over a quarter of all such in-migrants to Scotland as a whole.

Of all components of population change, monitoring these migrant flows over time is the most difficult element to estimate with confidence. Unlike births and deaths, there are no comprehensive systems for the registration of moves to or from the rest of the world, nor for moves within the UK. Official estimates of migration are therefore based on survey data and the best proxy data available.

One such source of proxy information are National Insurance Number (NINO) allocations to adult overseas nationals entering the UK. This dataset, published by the Department of Work and Pensions, includes registrations by any overseas national looking to work, become self-empoyed or claim benefits/tax credits in the UK. The data is available by local authority based on the place of residence of the applicant at the time of registration.

The major advantage of this dataset is that it provides up to date information for local authorities broken down by country of origin, age and gender of applicant. As such, it offers a useful way to examine changes in the origin and characteristics of adult migrants coming to Edinburgh over time.

As with any data set on migration, however, this indicator should be treated with some caution. For instance, these are flow indicators and do not provide a useful measure of the total stock of migrants in Edinburgh at any given time. Also, the data counts inflows only, and does not take any account of migrants leaving the city either to return to their country of origin or to move for work elsewhere in the UK. Despite these caveats, the data do provide an interesting insight into one aspect of migration flows and are a useful source to consider alongside other datasets.

Further Reading

Other information on migrants and migration flows to and from Edinburgh can be found from the following sources:

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