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Overview of the UK Population

The UK population grew to an estimated 64.6 million in 2014.

The population of the UK reached 64.6 million at mid-2014, a growth of 491 thousand over the previous year, according to the most recent population estimates.

The percentage rate of population growth seen over the last decade is higher than the average over the last 50 years. Population projections which show how the population would change in future years if recent demographic trends were to continue, show growth continuing over future decades, though at a lower rate as time goes on.

The UK population grew at a faster rate - averaging 0.7% growth each year - over the period 2004-2014 than the EU as a whole, which showed annual average growth of 0.3% over the period. The EU average is made up of a wide range of growth rates for individual countries. Five EU countries, including Ireland and Spain, experienced faster population growth than the UK while Germany and a number of countries in Eastern Europe saw their populations fall over the period.

Table 1: UK population: average annual growth

  Average annual percentage growth
1951-1971 0.5%
1971-1991 0.1%
1991-2001 0.3%
2001-2011 0.7%
2011-2014 0.7%
2014-2021 0.7% *
2021-2041 0.5% *
2041-2061 0.3% *
*projected

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Sources:
Population Estimates for the UK 1951-2013 (214.5 Kb Excel sheet)   
Population Estimates for the UK 2014  
2012-based National Population Projections (403 Kb Excel sheet)   

Though the population has grown in every country and region of the UK over the last decade, growth has been strongest in London and the south and east of England with much slower growth in the north of England, and in Scotland and Wales.

Table 2: Population growth within the UK

  Population (millions)  
  2004 2014 Annual average percentage growth rate
United Kingdom                60.0                 64.6 0.7%
England                50.2                 54.3 0.8%
  North East                  2.5                   2.6 0.3%
  North West                  6.8                   7.1 0.4%
  Yorkshire and The Humber                  5.1                   5.4 0.6%
  East Midlands                  4.3                   4.6 0.8%
  West Midlands                  5.3                   5.7 0.7%
  East                  5.5                   6.0 0.9%
  London                  7.4                   8.5 1.4%
  South East                  8.1                   8.9 0.9%
  South West                  5.0                   5.4 0.7%
Wales                  3.0                   3.1 0.4%
Scotland                  5.1                   5.3 0.5%
Northern Ireland                  1.7                   1.8 0.7%
 

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Sources:
Population Estimates for the UK 2014

Causes of Changes in the Size of the Population

There are four causes of changes in the size of the UK population - people are born, people die, people move in, and people move out. Table 3 summarises the relative importance of these causes in recent years.

Table 3: Cause of changes in the size of the UK population

thousands
  Annual Average 2004-2014 2014
Total Change 465 491
Births 778 777
Deaths 568 551
Natural Change 210 226
Immigration 608 583
Emigration 365 323
Net Migration 243 260
Other Changes 12 5

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Sources:
Population Estimates for the UK 2014

Note: Figures in this table are those used in the population estimates and are for years to mid-year. More recent figures for international migration are provided in the International Migration section below. Figures for births and deaths are for the year to mid-year and are thus different to the standard birth and deaths statistics which relate to calendar years. Calendar year data for 2014 was not available at the time of this publication.

The rest of this section looks at each of these causes of change in turn.

Births
The number of births is determined by the age structure of the population - how many women there are of childbearing age - and by age-specific fertility rates - the average number of live children women of a particular age will each give birth to during a year. These rates can be used to produce a summary measure called the 'total fertility rate' (TFR). The TFR is the average number of live children that a woman would have if she experienced the age-specific fertility rates of the year in question throughout her childbearing life.

After falling through the 1990s, largely as a result of women delaying childbearing to older ages, the number of births, and the total fertility rate, rose each year from 2002 to 2008. The total fertility rate remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2012 before dipping in 2013. Despite this drop, the number of births and the TFR remained relatively high compared to figures for the last three decades.

Though this rise in fertility rates since 2002 has been seen across the EU, the UK continues to have relatively high fertility rates compared to other EU countries - in 2013 only France, Ireland and Sweden had higher fertility rates.

Deaths
The number of deaths is determined by the size and age structure of the population - in particular, how many older people there are - and the mortality rates at each age. This combination of factors means that, as happened in 2013, the total number of deaths can increase on the previous year, despite a continuing long-term decrease in mortality rates.

Life expectancy at birth in the UK has consistently increased, from 70.8 years for males and 76.8 years for females in 1980-1982 to 78.9 years for males and to 82.7 years in 2011-2013. Women continue to live longer than men, but the gap has been closing, with the gap between female and male life expectancies narrowing from 6.0 years to 3.8 years over the period. The faster improvement in male mortality is largely driven by changes seen in tobacco smoking and advances in health treatments for circulatory illnesses. Male occupations over the same period have also become less physical and safer.

International Migration
Until 1982 international migration flows out of the UK were typically larger than flows into the country, meaning that migration tended to decrease the size of the population. Since 1997, both outflows and inflows have increased and inflows have been larger than outflows - that is, there has been a net inward migration - since 1993.

The latest migration estimates are that 641,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year to December 2014, while 323,000 people emigrated - a net inward migration of 318,000 (these figures are more recent than the figures for the year to June 2014 shown in Table 3 above).

There are a number of influences on changes in the levels of international migration. These include the accessibility and cost of international travel; changes in legislation (such as the abolition of the Primary Purpose Rule in 1997): the expansion of the EU (growing from 12 countries in 1994 to 28 by 2014); changes in the number of people seeking asylum (for example, as a result of wars in other countries); and economic performance (in general, immigration will increase when the economy is doing well relative to other countries and there are more jobs available).

Internationally comparable figures published by Eurostat indicate that the direct effect of net migration on the size of the UK population was an increase of 3.1 people per 1,000 inhabitants in 2013, similar to the EU average of 3.2.

In addition to the direct impact of migration on the size of the population, current and past international migration also has indirect effects on the size of the population as it changes the numbers of births and deaths in the UK. For example, statistics on the number of births by the country of birth of the mother show that 197 thousand live births (25% of total live births) in the UK in 2013 were to mothers born outside the UK. However, this figure should not be interpreted as an estimate of the indirect effect of migration on the size of the population - it is only one aspect of this. A fuller assessment would consider:

  • deaths of people who had migrated to the UK

  • births to, and deaths of, people who emigrated from the UK (and who would have given birth, or died, in the UK had they not emigrated)

  • how to account for births to, and deaths of, UK-born people who had emigrated and subsequently returned to the UK

  • how to account for births to, and deaths of, UK-born people who had parents (or grandparents etc) who were themselves immigrants

Characteristics of the Population

Age

The UK has an ageing population - the proportion of the population aged 65 and over has increased over the past 30 years, and this change is projected to continue. This is partly due to the increase in life expectancy and partly due to the relatively high number of births in the years following World War II and during the 1960s' 'baby boom', and the impact of these groups moving into the higher age groups.

Table 4: Age distribution of the UK population

  Aged 0-15 Aged 16-64 Aged 65 and over
1984 21% 64% 15%
1994 21% 63% 16%
2004 20% 65% 16%
2014 19% 64% 18%
* 2024 19% 61% 20%
* 2034 18% 58% 24%
* 2044 17% 58% 25%
*projected

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Sources:
Population Estimates for the UK 1951-2013 (214.5 Kb Excel sheet)
Population Estimates for the UK 2014
2012-based National Population Projections (403 Kb Excel sheet)

One important aspect of an ageing population is the relative size of the working-age and the pensioner populations. This is expressed as the old age dependency ratio (OADR) - the number of people of or above State Pension Age (SPA) for every 1,000 people of working age.

The OADR was steady at around 300 from the 1980s to 2006, but rose in 2007-09 as women born in the post-World War II baby boom reached SPA. In the absence of any increases to SPA the OADR is projected to reach 487 by 2037; but, as a result of planned SPA increases taking place between 2010 and 2046 under current legislation, the population projections suggest that, if current demographic trends continue, in 2037 there would be 365 people of or above SPA for every 1,000 people of working age.

This increase in the OADR means that there will be fewer people of working age to support a larger population of or over SPA.

 

Categories: Population, Population Change, Population Estimates, Population Estimates by Age and Sex
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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