The Impacts of National and International Migration in a Major UK City

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How has Manchester’s population changed?

Greater Manchester’s population has been steadily growing and currently stands at around 2.8 million residents. Manchester, a key player during the Industrial Revolution, has historically been a magnet for economic and social activity in the North of England. Initially a small Lancastrian township, Manchester experienced explosive growth in the 19th century, driven by its textile manufacturing, becoming the world’s first industrialised city.

Following a period of stagnation in the late 20th century due to deindustrialisation and the resultant economic challenges, Manchester’s population grew rapidly in the early 21st century. This resurgence was fueled by investments in service sectors like finance, media, and higher education, coupled with significant urban regeneration projects. Greater Manchester attracts a diverse population today due to its robust economy, cultural significance, and educational institutions.

What are the impacts of national and international migration in Manchester?

Impacts of national and international migration on the growth and character of Manchester

There are more than 200 languages spoken in Manchester, and although there have been a range of impacts on the city, it is almost hard to not see the growth as positive.

Historically, Manchester has been attracting people to the city from abroad and within the UK since the Industrial Revolution. Large-scale immigration began with Irish migrants who came across to work in the mills, but this was closely followed by Jewish migrants fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe.

By the mid-1950s, migrants generally arrived in the UK because of war, persecution, civil unrest, or to escape poverty. Immigrants were mainly from Ireland, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and South Africa. Most of these migrants settled around the city centre, with most Irish and Asian migrants choosing the north and east of the city, whereas the migrants from Black ethnic groups settled in the south.

By 2004, however, migration from Eastern Europe had massively increased, and Manchester saw large numbers of migrants from Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland.

Between the last two censuses (held in 2011 and 2021), the population of Manchester increased by 9.7%, from just over 503,100 in 2011 to around 551,900 in 2021. The population of the North West increased by 5.2%, while the population of England rose by 6.6%.

National Migration

Between 2011 and 2021, population growth was higher in Manchester than across the North West. Migration into the city has predominantly been for the city’s wide range of education opportunities. The universities attract over 100,000 students yearly; over 50% stay and work in the city. This has led to the growth of high-tech industries within the city that are predominantly focused on scientific and medical research. This development of opportunities for graduates has raised the median age in Manchester from 29 in the 201 census to 31 in the 2021 census. This has led to a huge range of services and housing being built for the younger population moving in. The city’s music and culture opportunities grow yearly, generating huge amounts of money for the city.

It is not just the increase in the number of people of working age; the population over 50 also grew by 2% between 2011 and 2021, apparently due to the proximity of green space while still being able to access the city. The development of the Metrolink in 2019/2020 has also increased migration and led to more houses being built along the rural-urban fringe.

International Migration

Today, Manchester has a multi-ethnic population, a quarter from non-white minority backgrounds.  Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, African and African Caribbean communities have been settled in the city since the 1950s.

Chinatown originated in the early 1900s. However, it didn’t expand until after World War II. The British government made migration easier after the war and huge labour shortages. This encouraged huge numbers of Chinese migrants. The neighbourhood began to expand following the opening of ‘Ping Hong’, the first Chinese restaurant in the city, creating other Chinese-run businesses like supermarkets and medicine shops. Today, there is a huge variety of Chinese-run businesses, including legal and financial services, such as the Bank of East Asia, and cultural institutions, such as the Chinese Arts Centre. Manchester’s Chinatown is one of the largest in Europe, and some events run across the whole city at certain times of the year, for example, in February for Chinese New Year.

Every year there is a Caribbean Carnival of Manchester, in 2011, there was a focus on ‘Project 81’, which looked at the impacts of the 1981 Manchester Riots on the Caribbean Community. The project spoke to school children and local people in the area to educate them on why the riots happened and the causes and effects immigration can have on Manchester.

The increase in migration since the early 1990s has predominantly led to huge numbers of skilled workers arriving in the city, over 65% of whom work within the NHS. Not only has it brought this, but it has also changed how people live in the city. Recent research by Manchester University has shown that the music and culture are changing across the city to accommodate changing musical tastes. The change in food tastes has led to many different types of restaurants in the city, with people of all nationalities eating there.

One of the significant impacts of migration on the city has been the reduction in the availability of affordable housing. Over the past 25 years, housing within the city has quadrupled in price, and many low-income people struggle to stay in the area. This leads to urban sprawl and huge housing estates built on the rural-urban fringe.

The impact of migration on Manchester is complex and multifaceted. It significantly impacts the city’s economy, society, environment, and politics. On the one hand, it has boosted economic growth, diversified the culture, and brought innovation. On the other hand, it has put pressure on public services, contributed to environmental issues, and posed challenges to social cohesion and integration.


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