This chapter analyses the results of the 2010-based National Population Projections. Included are sections on:
Future size of the population
Comparison with 2008-based projections
The population of the UK is projected to increase from an estimated 62.3 million in 2010 to 73.2 million by 2035 (see Figure 2.1 and Table 2.1). Longer-term projections suggest the population will continue rising beyond 2035 reaching 89.3 million by 2085.
Between 2010 and 2035 the population of England is projected to increase by 19 per cent, Wales by 12 per cent, Northern Ireland by 11 per cent and Scotland by 10 per cent. The Northern Ireland population is projected to continue growing until the mid 2050s, after which it is projected to fall. The populations of England, Wales and Scotland are projected to continue rising beyond 2060.
|Population at start||62,262||62,735||65,271||67,636||69,820||71,766|
|Population at end||62,735||65,271||67,636||69,820||71,766||73,208|
Births, deaths and migration
With the single exception of 1976, the UK gained population through natural increase (births less deaths) throughout the 20th century. It is expected that the current gap between births and deaths will continue to grow until about 2015, after which – with the large cohorts born after the Second World War starting to reach advanced ages – the number of deaths will significantly increase.
However, long-term projections are very uncertain. In particular, it should be noted that the projected trend in births depends on the assumed future level of fertility and, therefore, has a higher level of uncertainty attached to it than the projected trend in deaths which is strongly influenced by the age structure of the population alive today.
Between 2002 and 2008, total fertility rates increased in all constituent countries of the UK, followed by a dip in 2009. All countries except Scotland then showed a recovery in 2010. For women born after 1984, it has been assumed that average completed family size for the UK as a whole will fall back below two children and eventually level off at 1.84 children for women born after 2010. Figure 2.2 shows the number of births are projected to rise initially (up to 2014), before declining and then rising again from 2030. The continuing rise in the longer-term, when the total fertility rate is assumed to be constant, is due to increases in the female population of childbearing age resulting from assumed net inward migration.
The annual number of deaths has been declining in the last few years and is projected to fall further until 2015. The steep projected rise in the number of deaths in the second quarter of the 21st century reflects the size of both the large cohorts born after the Second World War and also those born during the 1960’s baby boom.
It is assumed that annual net inward migration into the UK will be 200,000 persons per year from 2016–17 onwards. In the short-term, higher migration assumptions allow for an additional but declining, net inflow of migrants from the EU Accession countries.
In practice, annual numbers of births, deaths and migrants will not follow such smooth patterns. Migration, in particular, can be expected to continue to exhibit unpredictable year-to-year fluctuations.
The age structure of the population is projected to change in future years, mainly as a result of past and future fluctuations in the number of births, but also because of the effects of changes in mortality rates and because of the impact of migration. The main effects are summarised for broad age groups in Table 2.2 and illustrated in Figure 2.3.
The age structure will become gradually older with the median age of the population rising from 39.7 years in 2010 to 42.2 years in 2035. Figure 0.1 of the executive summary illustrates the projected changes in the age structure of the population, including the significant increases projected at older ages. Longer-term projections show continuing ageing with the median age reaching 45.2 years by 2085.
Data in this reference volume are mainly based on the changed definitions of State Pension age under the 1995 and 2007 Pensions Acts, and is therefore consistent with data published on 26th October and 23rd November 2011. However Figure 2.8 and 2.9 illustrate the effect of further changes to SPA under the 2011 Pension Act, on the dependency ratios for populations of children and pensionable ages.
|75 & over||4,905||4,990||5,470||6,282||7,446||8,202||8,918|
|Median age (years)||39.7||39.8||39.9||40.0||40.6||41.5||42.2|
|Dependants per 1,000 persons of working age|
The equivalent chart for the constituent countries of the UK can be found in appendices A-D of the Results report published on 26th October 2011.
Figure 2.4 shows that the population aged under 45 is expected to increase by over 3.3 million between 2010 and 2035. However, the number aged 45 and over is projected to increase more sharply, by around 7.7 million over the same period and surpassing the population aged under 45 by 2081.
Children and the population of working and pensionable ages
The Pensions Act 19951 announced a change in State Pension age from 65 years for men and 60 years for women, to 65 years for both sexes, to be phased in between April 2010 and March 2020. The Pensions Act 20072 announced further changes in the State Pension age for both sexes from 65 to 66 years between 2024 and 2026, from 66 to 67 years between 2034 and 2036 and from 67 to 68 years between 2044 and 2046.
The detailed projection results on the ONS website show the projected working age and pensionable age populations for the period 2010 onwards based on these changed definitions of State Pension age as they occur during the projection period. The projected number of children, populations of working age and pensionable age are summarised in Table 2.2 and for Figure 2.5, are illustrated under the changed and historical definitions of State Pension age.
It should be noted that the 2010-based projections do not reflect further changes to State Pension age
3 under the Pensions Act 2011, which reached Royal Assent on 3 November 2011 (after publication of the 2010-based principal population projections). Under the Act, women’s State Pension age will increase more quickly to 65 years between April 2016 and November 2018. From December 2018, State Pension age for both men and women will start to increase to reach 66 years from October 2020.
The working age population is projected to rise from 38.5 million in 2010 to 41.6 million by 2020 and then reach 44.7 million by 2035 and 52.4 million by 2085. Without the changes in SPA, the population of working age would have been projected to rise to 41.3 million by 2035 and 47.0 million by 2085.
The size of the working age population is affected by a number of factors including the level of net migration (much of which is of young adults), the survivors of births 16 years earlier who enter the working age population and the size of the cohorts about to leave the working age population to retire. The changes to the SPA affects the age at which people are classed working age, which is also a factor.
The population of pensionable age is projected to rise fairly slowly from 12.2 million in 2010 to 12.7 million by 2020. However, a sharper increase is then projected with the population of pensionable age expected to reach 15.6 million by 2035 and 22.2 million by 2085. Without the changes in SPA, the population of pensionable age would have been projected to rise to 19.0 million by 2035, and to 27.5 million by 2085.
The number of children under the age of 16 is projected to rise by around 14 per cent from 11.6 million in 2010 to 13.0 million by 2035. Figure 2.6 shows that the number of 16 year olds entering the working age population is expected to fall by 11 per cent from 758,000 in 2010 to a low of 675,000 by 2018, before the increasingly larger cohorts of those born between 2002 and 2008 and result in a sharp rise until 2024. The rise beyond 2025 is due to an increase in the assumed TFR between 2010 and 2013.
These changes in age structure will, in time, have a marked effect on the future proportion of dependants in the population. Table 2.2 and Figure 2.7 show projected dependency ratios, that is, the number of children aged under 16 or the number of people of pensionable age (or the sum of the two) per 1,000 people of working age. These are somewhat arbitrary boundaries as, in reality, full-time education ends, and retirement starts, at a range of ages. Further, research has shown that labour market changes have in the past been a more important factor than demographic trends in influencing real (economic) dependency.4
The total dependency ratio is 618 dependants per 1,000 persons of working age in 2010 and is projected to drop slightly and then level off during the period to 2020, when women’s SPA reaches 65 years. The ratio is then expected to increase gradually but with drops during each additional transitional period where the SPA increases a further year. The longer-term projections suggest a total dependency ratio of 706 dependants per 1,000 persons of working age by 2085. However, this is lower than the total dependency ratio in the early 1970s, although then it was children who comprised the majority of dependants. Research suggests that the cost of supporting a person aged 65 and over is, on average, greater than that to support a child.5
Without the changes in SPA, the proportion of dependants would have risen earlier and further as indicated by the dotted lines in Figure 2.7. The total dependency ratio would have been projected to rise to 695 dependants per 1,000 persons of working age by 2020, (774 by 2035 and 898 by 2085).
The child dependency ratio (the number of children per 1,000 persons of working age) fell markedly during the 1970s and 1980s but is projected to rise from 302 children per 1,000 persons of working age in 2010 to 315 in 2023 before falling to 281 by 2046, and stabilising thereafter. The changes to SPA affect the number of people of working age and hence have an impact on the child dependency ratio. Without the changes in SPA, the child dependency ratio would have been 332 children per 1,000 persons of working age by 2023, before falling to 310 by 2046.
The pensionable age dependency ratio however, is affected more by the changes to the SPA and shows a very similar pattern to that of the total dependency ratio. The pensionable age dependency ratio is projected to fall from 316 per 1,000 persons of working age in 2010 to 305 by 2020.The ratio is then expected to increase gradually but with drops during each additional transitional period where the SPA increases a further year. Without the changes in SPA, the pensionable age dependency ratio would have risen to 368 per 1,000 persons of working age by 2020 and continued rising to reach 473 by 2046.
The changes to SPA under the Pensions Act 2011 only affect the projection years between 2016 and 2025. Figures 2.8 and 2.9 show, respectively, the pensionable age and child dependency ratios under the changed definitions compared with further changes under the 2011 Pensions Act.
Figure 2.10 splits the pensionable age dependency ratio into five age bands (60–64, 65–67, 68–74, 75–84 and 85 and over), with the first two bands representing age groups which become part of the working age population by 2046. Each of the subsequent increases in SPA causes a decrease in the overall ratio - during the implementation periods - and affects the proportion in the appropriate age band. In the intervening years, however, the trend in the pensionable age dependency ratio is strongly upwards. In 2010, persons aged 75 and over represented 40 per cent of the population of pensionable age but by 2060, following all changes in SPA, they are projected to account for 67 per cent.
Population ageing will be experienced to a greater or lesser extent in all Western countries. Indeed, the latest Eurostat projections
6 show that in the year 2035, the UK will have proportionately fewer older people than most other EU countries.
Projections to 2085
The main focus of the projections is on the period to 2035. Longer-term projections have been discussed where appropriate. However, projections become increasingly uncertain the further they are carried forward into the future.
The annual number of births is projected to still be increasing in the long-term, reaching around 929,000 by 2085. The annual number of deaths is projected to reach about 817,000 by 2085. The excess of births over deaths is projected to reach a peak of around 288,000 by 2015 before reducing to a difference of just over 91,000 by 2061, followed by a small increase in the excess thereafter. This, combined with the assumed level of net inward migration, means that the UK population is projected to continue rising strongly throughout the projection period and reaching 89.3 million by 2085.
Population increases are greatest at the oldest ages. The number of people aged 60 and over is projected to rise throughout the projection period, with more than twice the number aged 60 and over by 2085 compared with 2010 (30.0 million compared with 14.1 million). However, the number of persons aged over 75 is projected to rise even faster, doubling by the late 2030s and more than trebling by 2085.
Although these very long-term figures are subject to great uncertainty, they show the consequences that would follow if the long-term assumptions of fertility, mortality and migration were to be realised in practice.
Longer term projections to 2110 are available on the ONS website for users who require them but these should be treated with extreme caution. They are not considered appropriate for a wide range of uses but have been made available in line with making datasets publicly available under the government's transparency agenda.
Changes in assumptions
Table 2.3 shows the fertility, mortality and migration assumptions for the 2010-based projections and compares them with the previous (2008-based) set of projections (fully described in the preceding volume of the PP2 series).
The long-term assumptions for average completed family size have remained unchanged from the previous 2008-based projections for UK and the constituent countries.
Actual period life expectancies at birth in 2010 are slightly lower than previously projected, and remain lower throughout the early years of the projection period but are generally broadly similar by 2035, except for Scotland. These differences are mainly due to the age-specific mortality rates for 2010 being assumed to be higher and the rates of mortality improvement between 2010 and 2011 assumed to be lower at many ages below 90 compared to those projected for the same period in the 2008-based projections. Over the early years of the projections these counterbalance the assumption of higher rates of mortality improvement at most ages in 2035.
Improvements in mortality for those born in 1940 and later are assumed to converge to a slightly higher annual rate of improvement of 1.2 per cent from 2035 onwards (compared with 1 per cent from 2033 onwards in the 2008-based projections). For those born before 1940 the same rates of mortality improvement were assumed from 2035 onwards as in the previous 2008-based projections.
The new long-term assumption for net migration to the UK is +200,000 each year compared with +180,000 a year in the 2008-based projections. The long-term international net migration assumptions for England and Scotland are 15,500 and 5,500 per year higher than for the 2008-based projections, whilst the international net migration assumptions for Wales and Northern Ireland are each 500 per year lower.
|United Kingdom||England||Wales||Scotland||Northern Ireland|
|Fertility - Long-term average number of children per woman|
|Mortality - Expectation of life at birth in 2035 (years)1|
|Net migration2 - Annual long-term assumptions|
Expectations of life at birth for 25 years ahead. Note these are period expectations of life based on the mid-year mortality rates assumed for the year 2035 and do not take account of the continuing improvement in mortality projected beyond 2035. Cohort life expectancies at birth in the 2010-based projections, allowing for the assumed further mortality improvement, will be about 10.8 years higher for a boy born in the UK in 2035 and about 10.2 years higher for a girl born in 2035 than the period figures shown in the table based on calendar year life expectancies.
Assumed net migration includes international migration and cross-border migration between the four countries of the United Kingdom.
Table 2.4 shows actual population change between 2008 and 2010 and compares it with the projected change from the previous projections. Overall, the published mid-2010 population estimate for the UK is 40,000 (0.06 per cent) higher than the 2008-based projection of the population at mid-2010.The majority of this difference is due to an underprojection of natural change, incorporating both an underprojection of the number of births and an overprojection of the number of deaths.
|Mid-year estimates (000s)||2008-based projections (000s)||Difference|
|Population at mid-2008||61,398||61,393||5||0.0|
|Components of change (2008–2010)|
|Net migration and other changes1||404||393||11||-|
|Population at mid-2010||62,262||62,222||40||0.1|
At individual country level, the differences vary from an under projection of the total population of 0.2 per cent in Scotland to an over projection of 0.2 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Total UK population
The 2010-based projection of the total population of the UK is compared with the 2008-based projections in Figure 2.11. The UK population is projected to continue rising for the whole of the projection period at a slightly higher rate of growth to that of the 2008-based projections. The base population at mid-2010 is 40,000 higher than envisaged in the 2008-based projections and the differential continues to increase further into the future, reaching 924,000 by 2035 and over 2 million by 2060.
The projected total population of each country is compared with the 2008-based projections in Table 2.5. The difference between the two sets of projections is broken down into changes due to the base population and changes due to the projected numbers of births, deaths and migrants.
Table 2.5 shows projected populations are higher than in the 2008-based projections for England and Scotland, and lower for Northern Ireland. For Wales, the projected population is lower than in the 2008-based projections in 2011, the same in 2021, 2031 and higher in 2035. The largest difference at 2035 is for Scotland (3.6 per cent). For England and Scotland there has been an increase in projected migrants and projected births, countered by an increase in projected deaths. For Wales and Northern Ireland an increase in projected births was countered by an increase in projected deaths and a decrease in projected migrants.
|Change due to:|
|2010-based projection||2008-based projection||Total change||base population||projected births||projected deaths||projected migrants|
|Population at 2011|
|Population at 2021|
|Population at 2031|
|Population at 2035|
Distrbution by age and sex
The change in the projected size of the UK population for selected age groups is shown in Table 2.6, compared with the 2008-based projection, the projected UK population at 2035 is higher for all the selected age groups except those aged 75 and over. Although this age group is still projected to almost double, the growth rate is projected to be slightly lower.
The 2010-based projections are projecting four per cent higher growth for those aged 16-29 than was projected in the 2008-based projections. This is due to higher assumed fertility in the earlier years of the 2010-based projections.
|75 and over||6||0.1||3||0.1||-73||-1.2||-108||-1.3||-90||-1.0|
The changes at individual ages and for each sex in 2035 are shown in Figure 2.12. Overall, the male and female projected UK populations are 1.6 and 1.0 per cent respectively higher than in the 2008-based projections.
The figure for the constituent countries of the UK are available in appendices A-D of the Results report published on 26th October 2011.
1. Pensions Act 1995 Chapter 26 Part II Section 126 and Schedule 4.
2. Pensions Act 2007 Chapter 22 Part I Section 13 and Schedule 3.
3. For more information on pension reforms see: dwp.gov.uk/policy/pensions-reform/
4. Johnson P and Falkingham J. Ageing and economic welfare. Sage publications (1992).
5. Replacement migration: is it a solution to declining and aging populations? United Nations (2000).
6. Eurostat News Release: 'From 2015, deaths projected to outnumber births in the EU27', 26 August 2008, available at: epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/population/publications/population_projections
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