government's Actuary Department (see below), Home Office minister Beverley
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.'
OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS
NEW UNITED KINGDOM POPULATION PROJECTIONS
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
- 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 (http://www.gad.gov.uk/Population/index.asp). 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