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National Projections: UK population to exceed 65m by 2018

Released: 21 October 2009 Download PDF

Estimated and projected UK population mid-2008 and mid-2033

Estimated and projected UK population mid-2008 and mid-2033

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The UK population is projected to increase by 4.3 million by 2018. This increase is equivalent to an average annual rate of growth of 0.7 per cent.
If past trends continue, the population will continue to grow, reaching 71.6 million by 2033. This is due to natural increase (more births than deaths) and because it is assumed there will be more immigrants than emigrants (a net inward flow of migrants).
In common with other European countries, the UK has an ageing population. The proportion of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 16 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent by 2033. This is an inevitable consequence of the age structure of the population alive today, in particular the ageing of the large numbers of people born after the Second World War and during the 1960s baby boom.
As a result, despite the forthcoming rises in state pension age, old age support ratios will fall. In 2008, there were 3.2 people of working age for every person of state pensionable age. This ratio is projected to fall to 2.8 by 2033, taking into account the future changes to state pension age.

Report Summary Table, projected populations - UK and constituent countries, 2008-based

values in thousands
  2008 2013 2018 2023 2028 2033
United Kingdom 61,393 63,498 65,645 67,816 69,832 71,623
England 51,460 53,332 55,252 57,209 59,051 60,715
Wales 2,990 3,056 3,137 3,219 3,290 3,347
Scotland 5,169 5,271 5,360 5,442 5,505 5,544
Northern Ireland 1,775 1,839 1,896 1,946 1,986 2,016

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Trends differ for the four countries of the UK. The populations of England and Northern Ireland are projected to increase by 7 per cent by 2018 and Wales by 5 per cent. The projected increase for Scotland, where fertility and life expectancy levels are assumed to remain lower than in the rest of the UK, is 4 per cent.
Projections are uncertain and become increasingly so the further they are carried forward. For this reason, variant population projections have also been produced to show what could happen in situations of higher and lower levels of fertility, mortality and migration.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. The figures in this note are based on the Office for National Statistics’ principal (or central) projections. Variant projections are also available, based on alternative assumptions of future fertility, life expectancy or migration.

  2. The support ratio figures take into account the change in women's state pension age from 60 to 65 which will be phased in between 2010 and 2020, and the rise in state pension age for all persons from 65 to 66 between 2024 and 2026.

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