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EU nationals and their children in Scotland, Eurochildren Brief Series, no. 7

Lessard-Phillips, Laurence

At the end of 2018, EU-born residents in Scotland, who overall accounted for 4.3% of the population, comprised between 0.8% and 11.4% of the resident population in local areas, with geographical distribution concentrated around Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, West Lothian, and Perth and Kinross.

Over forty years of EU membership have transformed the makeup of the United Kingdom and Scotland. EU nationals made up under 1% of the Scottish population in 1981. At the time of the EU referendum they were estimated at just over 3.9%.

The major change to the importance and distribution of EU nationals in Scotland came after the EU enlargement rounds in the 2000s. While census data 1981-1991 show a mostly stable population, between 2001 and 2011, the quota of EU nationals rose in all local areas, including areas which up to then had had a small population of foreign-born residents.

The demographic significance of children of EU nationals born in Scotland has been growing over time. Not only have they gained in number, but the countries of origin of the parents have also changed, as have the rates of births to mixed parentage (EU and UK).

 In 2017, the share of births to at least one EU parent amounted to about 10.6% of all births in Scotland. In 1980s and 1990s, children born to at least one EU parent amounted to about 2% of all births. Since the 2000s, the share of children born to two EU parents has also increased and from 2009 onwards, children born to both EU parents outnumber children in mixed parentage families (EU and UK).  For children born to two EU parents in 2013-2017, the main countries of origin of parents are Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. Amongst all births to EU parents, Poland leads and Germany and Ireland are in second and third place respectively. These are also the main countries of origin in EU births with someone born in the UK.

The socio-economic status of births to at least one EU parent has decreased over time. In the 1996-2004 period, 57.7% of these births were from parents in the highest socio-economic class, 18.6% in the intermediate class, and 23.8% in the lowest socio-economic class. In the 2007-2013 period, we see a decrease in the percentage of births from the highest socio-economic class (41.9%) and intermediate class (14.8%) and an increase in the percentage of births from the lowest socio-economic class (43.3%). In the most recent period, however, the percentage of births in the intermediate class had increased, whereas the ones from the lowest class had decreased.

Changes in the socio-economic composition of births are mostly due to the lower socio-economic status of EU8 and EU2 parents. However, most recent data show that the socio-economic status for EU8 births has improved. For the EU2, where the lifting of work restrictions only occurred in 2014, the change is not as positive

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