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How many Israelis live in the UK?

How many Israelis live in the UK?

There is much conjecture about how many Israelis live in the UK, with the most exaggerated claims (made recently in the Jewish Chronicle) as high as 80,000 or even 100,000. But what's the real number?

The most reliable evidence that exists on the question comes from the 2011 Census of England and Wales conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (see note below). It is legally compulsory for every household in the country to complete a census form, and households failing to do so are chased up and ultimately fined for non-compliance. Thus the Census represents the most complete picture of the UK population that exists. No other dataset is comparable in terms of size or quality.

With all non-UK national groups (e.g. French, Americans, Poles, Israelis, etc.), a distinction must be drawn in the Census between those who are living in the UK temporarily or merely visiting for a short while, and those who are permanently settled in the country. The Census differentiates between these two groups: the former, known officially as “non UK short-term residents” are defined as people who are based in the UK for less than a year, or who intend to stay for less than a year. Data is gathered on them, but it is analysed separately and not included in the population data released by the ONS, because these people are not part of the permanent UK population. Typically, they are part of a different national population, and thus must be excluded from the UK count.

The latter group, “usual residents of the UK”, are defined as people who, on Census day, were in the UK, and either had stayed – or intended to stay – in the UK for a period of twelve months or more; or people who had a permanent UK address and were outside the UK and intended to be outside the UK for less than twelve months. It is this group that is enumerated in the released census data. Explained more simply, the figures quoted in this briefing note include Israelis who are based permanently (i.e. for more than one year) in the UK, and exclude those who are here on a short-term basis (i.e. less than one year).

To date, two data tables have been released by the ONS. The first, based on country of birth data, demonstrates that there are 17,778 people based in England and Wales who were born in Israel. Not all of these people are necessarily Jewish – indeed, it is likely that a small proportion is not. The second table, based on write-in ethnicity data, demonstrates that Israelis self-identified as ethnically Israeli in three distinct ways: (i) 3,274 people described themselves as “White: Israeli”; (ii) 160 people described themselves as “Mixed/multiple ethnic group: Israeli”; and (iii) 890 people described themselves as “Other: Israeli”. Together, these comprise 4,324 people. It is highly likely that this group in some way overlaps with the 17,778 people who indicated their place of birth as Israel, but at this stage, we do not have access to the data in the format required to make an assessment.

Of course, Israelis living in the UK may not have been born in Israel (although many will have), and not all Israelis based permanently in the UK will have opted to self-identify as ethnically Israeli on the UK Census form. Thus, it is almost certain that 17,778 constitutes an undercount for the total number of Israelis living permanently in the UK. To complete the picture, we need to examine citizenship data, which are scheduled to be released by the ONS in 2014. When they are available, the JPR team will make a further assessment, and publish an updated count.

Note: Separate censuses took place on the same day in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but data on Israelis have not been released from either of these. However, the numbers are likely to be very small indeed: only 3% of the UK Jewish population lives in these two countries.

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