Migration statistics

This strategy sets out the agreed framework for international migration publications across the UK Government Statistical Service (GSS). This is in relation to the coverage, coherence and timing of international migration statistics, for and within the UK.

The agreement has been made between the international migration divisional heads across the GSS departments and devolved administrations. They are called ‘producers’ in this strategy and include:

  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Home Office
  • National Records Scotland (NRS)
  • Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • Welsh Government (WG)

The strategy was agreed with the GSS Migration Steering Group in February 2022. We call them the ‘Steering Group’ in this strategy.

All arrangements will comply with:

  • the Code of Practice for Official Statistics
  • the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, and associated Pre-Release Access Orders
  • the Data Protection Act 1998

This strategy will make sure international migration publications are providing users with statistics and insights that are timely and coherent. The strategy explains how producers will work together to do this. It identifies opportunities for joint working and knowledge sharing.

The strategy also provides guidance for the known changes to the publication landscape. This includes things like the census, and transformation of population and migration statistics.

The strategy will be updated annually, as needed. It will be updated after it has been reviewed by all departments that publish international migration statistics and the Steering Group. Changes will be made before the annual review if needed.

Producers will review the timeliness of new and existing statistics on international migration. As part of their review, they will consider user needs and any impacts on quality.

Producers will review when the GSS and devolved administrations plan to publish their statistics during the year. Producers will aim to align publication dates and data reference periods. This will help to provide coherent information across the migration landscape.

Producers will speak to the Steering Group to address any concerns about when statistics will be published.

Our aim as producers is to provide a coherent description of the statistics for international migration. This means including other information with publications, such as summaries of what different data sources show, and explanations of statistics that can be shared with the general public. By providing this, users will have a clear understanding of migration as a whole topic. If there are differences between different publications, we will take the time to understand them and clearly communicate this information with users.

Producers will share any relevant information from their publication with other departments and devolved administrations before it is published. This might be for quality assurance purposes, or they might share the information to make sure there is a coherent story for all parts of the UK. Producers will share content as far in advance as possible. This means that there will be enough time for everyone to review and discuss the content.

Producers will develop any new definitions, methods, and statistics to help with coherence and comparability both in the UK and internationally. They will make sure that the different needs of public and policy users are also met.

It is important to remember that the policy context might not always be the same across each devolved administration. International migration statistics should meet user needs at a local level, not just the user needs of the UK as a whole. New statistics should be produced for countries and regions of the UK, as long as there is a proven user need for the information and the necessary resources available.

Producers of international migration statistics will continue working together to improve the quality of the statistics and ensure value for money. They will identify priority areas for improvement and share expertise to make the best use of the available resources.

Producers should proactively look for new opportunities to work together on more topical releases based on user need. An example of this would be labour market releases. They will also need to work closely with a wider range of stakeholders, such as topic area experts and data owners.

To provide clear sight on departmental publishing plans, producers will share updates with the Steering Group at meetings or through other methods of communication. Each producer’s update will include their publication plans for the next year, and any changes to data and methods that will be used to produce statistics.

Producers will also tell the Steering Group about any unplanned analysis and research as needed.  This will help to identify if producers need to work together with anyone else to complete their work.

There is a clear user need for more detailed international migration products that provide specific geographic or demographic detail. Producers will work to publish statistics at the lowest possible level where the data are available and of a high quality. For example, producers will try to publish data on a national level, a regional level, and a local authority level. But producers will only publish statistics below national level where the data are of suitable quality.

There are different types of users that need international migration statistics. This means that we need to use different communication methods to share the information. This could include things like blogs, explainer articles, and statistical bulletins. Producers will share their plans for communicating the information so that users know what to expect and when.

You can find more information about:

Producers will also make the GSS migration publication schedule available to users.

You can find more information about transformation of population and migration statistics on the ONS website.

Producers will provide information about the quality and uncertainty of statistics. This is especially important during the transition period when statistics will initially be classed as official statistics in development. Producers will follow GSS guidance on communicating statistics so that users can decide whether it is appropriate to use statistics for their project. For example, they may not want to use official statistics in development to help them make important decisions. You can find the GSS guidance on communicating statistics on the ‘Communicating quality, uncertainty and change’ page.

The ONS is leading the transformation of the UK’s international migration statistics. They will meet with the devolved administrations regularly to make sure there is coherence across UK statistics as the transformation into the new statistical system continues. They will concentrate on both the methods and the administrative data that is being used.

A regular supply of administrative data needed for the transformation migration statistics. Any data supply issues that may impact the production of statistics, should be raised to the Steering Group to help resolve any problems.

As the transformation journey continues, producers will review the existing GSS publishing schedule. They will consider adapting the schedule if needed to make sure it still meets the needs of users.

The ONS will start publishing statistics from Census 2021 of England and Wales from early Summer 2022. NISRA has published the first results from Census 2021 of Northern Ireland on 24 May 2022. NRS will start publishing statistics from Scotland’s Census 2022 from 2023.

Before the census information is released, all producers will carefully manage messages that relate to the census and the time period that census was taken in (March 2021). This will help make sure that users are aware that census data will be released. It will also help both producers and users think about how it may affect the overall story when using all available data sources. Producers will also use consistent messages about the census.

Producers will think about the existing GSS migration publication schedule when they are planning to publish census statistics.

Producers with migration policy needs will share their thoughts about how to maximise the value of migration statistics from Census 2021 with the Steering Group.