The importance of international migration estimates is unquestionable and the Office for Statistics Regulation has had a long interest in improving migration statistics (see the summary of our activities since 2009 below for further information). Our goal is to support the drive for a more comprehensive production of international migration statistics, with orderly release, that in turn will increase the public value of, and confidence in, the statistics.

Our systemic review of international migration statistics has helped to identify the information required to meet the current and emerging needs for decision making related to international migration. Having convened discussions on international migration statistics in autumn 2017 in relation to employment and business and local public service delivery, we are continuing to follow up on the actions that producers agreed to at these meetings, and as set out in our roundtables summary report. We published our latest review of progress in a letter to the Deputy National Statistician in September 2018. We will continue to monitor the GSS’s progress in using administrative data to transform government migration statistics and will consider whether these sources inform a better understanding of the quality of the existing Migration Statistics Quarterly Report.

These activities reflect our wider, systemic perspective of migration statistics. Their findings will continue to provide a focus for our future user and producer engagement, as we consider the success of the statistical producers’ cross-departmental efforts to deliver a coherent approach to international migration statistics.

Contact for more information on the migration systemic review:

Marie McGhee

Oliver Fox-Tatum

Summary of regulatory activities since 2009

We have had a long interest and concern about migration statistics. We published a Monitoring Report, Migration Statistics: the Way Ahead? in July 2009, reporting on progress being made by ONS against previous reviews and the recommendations of a report from the House of Commons Treasury Committee: Counting the population. The Monitoring Report also considered the adequacy of ONS’s plans for improving migration statistics and the effectiveness of co-operation across government in response to previous reviews.

We also published a Monitoring Review, The Robustness of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) in June 2013, which concluded that IPS statistics were broadly sufficient to meet a range of user needs for migration statistics at the UK level, but that there was not sufficient robustness to meet needs for migration data at lower geographic levels.

As part of a wider programme of work considering statistics and their use within government, a Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) report, Migration Statistics, published in July 2013, identified a range of limitations in the use of LTIM statistics, particularly in measuring progress towards meeting the Government’s migration targets and in analysing migration statistics at lower level geographies. The report identified the e-Borders programme (now known as Exit Checks) as an opportunity for further developing the statistics and suggested that other approaches to data collection should be considered by ONS and the Home Office. A letter from the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority to the Chairman of PASC addressed how statistics to meet these needs might be created.

With intense public debate on the subject of European national migration in the run up to the referendum on membership of the EU, we again intervened, encouraging a cross-Departmental effort to provide the best possible data. We have also completed our assessment of the National Insurance numbers allocated adult overseas nationals statistics which have taken us into the terrain of the public value offered by these figures. In September 2018, we have carried out a compliance check on the Home Office’s Immigration statistics and made several recommendations for improvements to further to enhance their public value. Then in October 2018,  we completed a Compliance check looking at ONS transparency and communications around changes to the International Passenger Survey (IPS) data collection approach which is relevant to the overall migration statistics story.


Updated April 2019