U.K. Population Outlook Is Scaled Back as Deaths Climb and Births Fall

U.K. Population Outlook Is Scaled Back as Deaths Climb and Births Fall

The number of people living in the U.K. is forecast to be smaller than previously thought over the next decade as an aging population takes its toll, according to official projections published Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said preliminary estimates show the population growing 3.2% between 2020 and 2030 to 69.2 million. That’s 1% fewer residents than its previous estimate made in 2019.

The slowdown reflects declining fertility rates and higher mortality as the baby boom generation born after World War II reaches older ages. Deaths are projected to outnumber births from the middle of the decade, 20 years earlier than previously projected. 

It means that net migration continues to drive population growth, with the U.K. projected to add over 2 million foreign citizens by the end of the decade. Statisticians cautioned, however, that no attempt has been made to predict the impact of Britain leaving the European Union or the coronavirus pandemic. 

Other figures suggest both events dramatically lowered net migration, at least in the short term.

“These projections suggest slower growth than we’ve previously said,” said James Robards of the population and household projections division at the ONS. “This is because of lower assumptions both about future levels of fertility and mortality improvements.”

Long-term population projections are crucial for policy making. They are widely used in the planning of health, education and pension budgets. They also form a key part of the supply side of the economy that underpin official productivity, growth and borrowing forecasts.

The rising number of people living to old age highlights the long-term pressures on the public finances. By the early 2040s, there will be over 600 children and people of pension age for every 1,000 people of working age, compared with fewer than 580 today, acccording to the outlook. Other projections show:

  • Population of the U.K. is set to reach 71 million by mid-2045
  • Increase between 2020 and 2045 to be driven by England, where the population is seen rising 6.7%; population of Scotland projected to fall over the period
  • Number of people age 85 and over projected to almost double to 3.1 million by 2045, or 4.3% of the population

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