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Commenting on the UK population projections published by the ...
Commenting on the UK population projections published by the

government's Actuary Department (see below), Home Office minister Beverley

Hughes, said:

'These figures indicate that the UK population is not projected to

increase indefinitely. Rather, over the long term, the overall

population and the working age population will start to decline while

the population aged over 65 is expected to reach 15 million by 2031.

'In this context the government's policy of a regulated but flexible

system of managed, legal migration is right. Immigration is one part

of ensuring the continued success of the UK economy and supporting an

ageing population. No modern economy can afford to be anti-


'However, essential to the pursuit of a balanced migration policy is

the need to build public trust and confidence by ensuring that we

tackle abuse of the system and secure our borders. We have made

substantial progress - asylum claims have been halved and record

numbers of failed asylum seekers are now being removed.

'Migrants make a valuable contribution to our economy and society. In

1999-2000 migrants paid £2.5bn more in taxes than in benefits

consumed. Industries like the food processing and hospitality sectors

who cannot recruit resident workers need migrants to fill vacancies,

whilst highly skilled migrants such as engineers and scientists bring

new innovations and capital to the UK.'



The United Kingdom population is projected to increase gradually from

an estimated 59.2 million in 2002 to reach 64.8 million by 2031,

according to new figures released today.

The projections, by the Government Actuary, for the UK and its

constituent countries, are based on the estimated population at the

middle of 2002 and replace the previous (interim) 2001-based national


The new figures show that:

- The p rojected total population increase of 5.6 million to 2031 is

equivalent to an average annual rate of growth of 0.31 per cent.

Longer-term projections suggest the population will peak around

2050 at over 65 million and then gradually start to fall.

- The projected total population of the United Kingdom at 2031 is

about 1.2 million (1.9 per cent) higher than in the previous

(2001-based) projections. This is mainly a result of a higher

assumption of future life expectancy which leads to around 850

thousand (4.7 per cent) fewer deaths in the period to 2031 than in

the previous projections. The higher figures also reflect upward

revisions to the mid-2001 population of England and Wales on which

the previous projections were based and a slight increase in the

assumed level of net migration and other changes.

- Of the projected 5.6 million increase between 2002 and 2031, just

under half (2.6 million) is due to projected natural increase (more

births than deaths) and just over half (3.0 million) to the assumed

level of net inward migration and other changes.

- The number of children aged under 16 is projected to fall by 7.4

per cent from 11.8 million in 2002 to just below 11 million in 2014

and then to rise slowly until the late 2020s.

- The number of people of working age (currently defined as between

ages 16 to 64 for men and 16 to 59 for women) is projected to rise

by 3.5 per cent from 36.6 million in 2002 to 37.8 million in 2011.

Allowing for the planned change in women's state pension age from

60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020, the working age population will

increase further to 39.4 million by 2021 and then gradually start

to fall.

- The number of people of state pensionable age is projected to

increase by 11.9 per cent from 10.9 million in 2002 to 12.2 million

in 2011. Allowing for the change in women's state pension age, the

population of pensionable age will then rise somewhat slower,

reaching 12.7 million by 2021. However, a faster increase will then

resume with longer-term projections suggesting the number over

pensionable age reaching 15 million by 2031, eventually peaking at

over 17 million in about sixty years' time.

- In 2002, there were around 850 thousand (8 per cent) more children

aged under 16, than people of state pensionable age. However, from

2007, the population of state pensionable age is projected to

exceed the number of children and by 2031 is projected to exceed it

by about 4 million (36 per cent).

- In 2002 there were 3.35 persons of working age for every person of

pensionable age. By 2011, this demographic support ratio will

decline to 3.10. Allowing for the change in women's state pension

age, the ratio will then remain fairly stable until 2021 before

declining quickly to just over 2.5 by 2031. Longer-term projections

suggest the support ratio will decline to below 2.2 in the 2050s

before levelling off.

- The population will gradually become older with the average (mean)

age expected to rise from 39.3 years in 2002 to 43.6 years in 2031.

Longer-term projections suggest the average age will reach 45 years

around 2050, but only rise slightly thereafter.

- Due to differences in demographic patterns, projected trends differ

for the four countries of the United Kingdom. A small decline in

the population of Scotland is projected to continue from 2002,

while the populations of Wales and Northern Ireland are projected

to peak around 2030 and then start to fall. The population of

England is still projected to be rising in forty years' time, but

at a low rate of growth.

Tables A to D in this release present summary results from the new


For the United Kingdom as a whole, the key assumptions for the future


- Average completed family size, which has been falling from a peak

of nearly 2.45 children for women born in the mid 1930s, to level

off at 1.74 children for women born after 1985. This assumption is

unchanged from the previous 2001-based projections.

- Life expectancy at birth, based on the mortality rates for that

year, to rise from 75.9 years in 2002 to 81.0 years in 2031 for

men, and from 80.5 years in 2002 to 84.9 years in 2031 for women.

The 2031 figures are around 1.5 years higher than assumed in the

previous 2001-based projections.

- Net migration and other changes of +103,000 each year from 2003-04

onwards. (This comprises an assumed net inward migration inflow of

+130,000 a year partly offset by a downward allowance of 27,000 for

other changes - see Background Note 4.) This compares with an

assumed net inflow of +100,000 a year in the previous 2001-based



1. The Government Actuary's Department (GAD) produces national

population projections for the United Kingdom and its constituent

countries at the request of the Registrars General for England and

Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The assumptions used are

agreed in consultation with the statistical offices of the four

constituent countries. A new set of projections is normally made

every second year, based on a full-scale review of the trends

affecting the underlying assumptions about fertility, mortality and

migration. The last 'full' set of national projections, issued in

November 2001, were based on the estimated population at the middle

of 2000. However, following the publication on 30 September 2002 of

the first results of the 2001 Census, an additional 'interim'

2001-based set of projections was produced which took preliminary

account of the results of the 2001 Census. These 2002-based

projections replace the interim 2001- based projections. The next

full set, scheduled for issue in October 2005, will be based on the

estimated population at the middle of 2004.

2. The main focus of the projections is on the period to 2031.

Longer-term projections to the year 2042 for the individual

countries, and to 2072 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.

3. Full results of the 2002-based national population projections for

the United Kingdom and its constituent countries are available on the

GAD website ( An article

on these projections will be published by the Office for National

Statistics (ONS) in Population Trends 115, in March 2004. A reference

volume will be published later in 2004.

4. Other changes

The first results of the 2001 Census, published in September 2002,

showed that previous mid-year population estimates, rolled forward

from the 1991 Census, had overestimated the population of the United

Kingdom. For the UK as a whole, the Census results indicated an

overestimation of about 1.2 million at mid-2001.

About 375,000 of this difference has been attributed to

overestimation of the mid-1991 population used as the base for

mid-year population estimates made after 1991. Revisions to

international migration estimates (published by ONS in June 2003)

have accounted for a further 350,000 of the intercensal discrepancy.

Finally, upward revisions to the estimated population of England and

Wales at mid-2001 (published by ONS in September and November 2003)

have effectively reduced the intercensal discrepancy by a further


This leaves around 270,000 of the intercensal difference to be

explained. ONS research suggests this may be attributable to

remaining difficulties in estimating emigration accurately, or to

those who spend part of their time in the UK and part abroad and so

may not be covered in the population measurement process. To ensure

that mid-year estimates are robust and d o not continue to

overestimate the population, a downward adjustment of 27,000 (i.e.

one tenth of the unexplained intercensal difference) for

'unattributable population change' was included in the mid-2002

population estimates for England and Wales published in November

2003. A similar annual adjustment has therefore also been introduced

for the 2002-based projections.

The need for the adjustment for unattributable population change in

population estimates will be reassessed by ONS annually. Further

information can be found on the National Statistics website at:


5. All figures presented in the tables in this release have been

rounded independently, so component figures may not add exactly to


6. Subnational population projections for England are the

responsibility of the Office for National Statistics, while those for

the other countries are the responsibility of the General Register

Office for Scotland, the Welsh Assembly Government Statistical

Directorate and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency


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