Economic Migrants

It is difficult to provide a complete picture of the characteristics of economic migration to Scotland. However, information from National Insurance Number (NINo) registration data can be used as a means of identifying trends of those coming to Scotland from outwith the UK for economic reasons.

In total, 37,820 adult overseas nationals entering Scotland in 2013/14 were allocated a NINo. The number of allocations in 2012/13 was 37,175 and 36,980 in 2011/12. The largest portion of NINo’s are allocated to nationals of the EU accession states (17,830), followed by other EU nationals (10,489).

NINo Registrations to Adult Overseas Nationals entering Scotland in 2013/14 are broken down into world region below. 

World Region

No of NINo Registrations

European Union


EU Accession States


Other European




Asia and Middle East


The Americas


Australasia and Oceania


Others & Unknown




NINo allocations also provide Local Authority level data. The 5 Scottish local authorities with the highest number of registrations in 2013/14 were: Edinburgh (10,493), Glasgow (6,673), Aberdeen City (4,686), Perth & Kinross (2,309), and Fife (1,864). However, we must bear in mind that this provides a picture of numbers and does not necessarily provide a picture of impact, e.g. the significant impact a small number of migrants can have on a rural area for instance. It is also important to note that there are a number of weaknesses in relation to the NINo data. For instance, it does not provide a picture of who is leaving the country; it only provides a snap shot picture of a migrant’s location at the point of registration; and it excludes those who are not working, such as dependants and students who are not in paid employment.