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Fewer children, a much older working population and more people over pensionable age are expected to make up the po...
Fewer children, a much older working population and more people over pensionable age are expected to make up the population of the United Kingdom by the year 2021.

Population projections* prepared by the Government Actuary and published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that: By 2021, there are expected to be one million fewer children aged under 16 than in 1996, a fall of nine per cent from 12.1m.

Although the size of the working age population is projected to increase to 39.3 million (allowing for the planned increase in the retirement age of women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020) in 2020, from 36.0m in 1996, there will be 2m fewer people age 16-44 and 2.5m more aged 44-59.

The number of people over pensionable age is expected to rise from 10.7m in 1996 to 12m in 2021, with longer-term projections suggesting nearly 15.5m by the late 2030s.

Allowing for the change in the retirement age of women, the dependency ratio is expected to fall from 632 dependants (children under 16 and population of pensionable age) per 1,000 working age people in 1996 to about 580 per 1,000 in 2020. Thereafter, longer-term projections suggest it will rise rapidly to around 700

per 1,000 from the mid-2030s.

Other key projections show: The United Kingdom population is projected to increase gradually from an estimated 58.8m in 1996 to reach 62.2m by 2021.

Longer-term projections suggest the UK population will peak around 2031 at almost 63m and then gradually start to fall.

The projected 3.4m increase in the UK population between 1996 and 2021 is almost equally due to natural increase (more births than deaths) and to net migration.

Between 1996 and 2021, the population of England is projected to rise from 49.1m to 52.5m, Northern Ireland from 1.66m to over 1.7m and Wales from 2.9m to just over 3m. Scotland's population will decrease from 5.1 million to just under 5m.

The population will become gradually older with the average (mean) age expected to rise from 38.4 years in 1996 to 41.9 years by 2021.

The population aged 80 and over will grow slowly from 2.4m in 1996 to reach three million by 2021. Longer-term projections suggest it will reach four million by 2031, eventually peaking at around 5.5m by the middle of the next century.


1. The Government Actuary, in consultation with the Registrars General of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, has responsibility for the production of the national population projections and for the assumptions regarding the future on which they are based. A new set of projections, based on a full-scale review of the trends affecting the underlying assumptions, is made every second year. The main focus of the projections is on the first 25 years, ie up to 2021. Longer-term projections to the year 2036 for individual countries, and to 2066 for the United Kingdom and Great Britain only, are also available. However, the further ahead the projections go, the greater is the degree of uncertainty.

2.Summary data on the 1996-based national population projections were previously published on 27 November 1997 and in an ONS Population and Health Monitor on 10 March 1998. This publication gives detailed results and a full account of the underlying assumptions.

3. Details of the policy governing the release of data, including a description of the release categories featured on the front page of ONS releases, are available from the press office.

*National population projections 1996-based Series PP2 no.21. The Stationery Office£30. ISBN 0 11 621160 1.

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