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An Executive Summary, 2012-based NPP Reference Volume This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 28 March 2014 Download PDF


This publication presents the results of the 2012-based population projections produced by ONS for the United Kingdom and its constituent countries. These results were previously published in statistical releases on 6 November 2013 and 10 December 2013. This volume is the latest in a regular series started in 1970 which brings together a summary of the results and details of the methodology into one compendium.

This volume includes some alternative summary charts and tables to those published previously. It also provides further detail of the projections methodology, some discussion around the trends which informed the assumptions and a range of related references for further background reading.

The following chapters are included:

Key Points

Since the 2010-based projections were published the results of the 2011 Census have been released and used to rebase the population estimates series. There were around 500,000 more people estimated by the 2011 United Kingdom Census than had been previously estimated. At mid-2012 the estimated population of the UK was about 460,000 higher than that projected for mid-2012 in the 2010-based projections. The key points of the 2012-based population projections are:

  • The population of the UK is projected to increase by 4.3 million over the next 10 years from an estimated 63.7 million in mid-2012 to 68.0 million in mid-2022. This increase is equivalent to an annual growth rate of 0.6% each year between mid-2012 and mid-2022. The UK population is projected to be 73.3 million at mid-2037, a total increase of 9.6 million over the next 25 years. 

  • The projected total population of the UK in mid-2037 is about 639,000 (0.9%) lower than in the 2010-based projections. This slower projected growth is due to the assumptions for migration being less and those for fertility being lower in the short term (but higher in the long term) than the 2010-based projections, resulting in fewer births and fewer net migrants.

  • Some 43% of the projected 9.6 million increase in the population between mid-2012 and mid-2037 is directly attributable to the assumed level of net inward migration. The remaining 57% is attributable to projected natural change (an excess of births over deaths) of which 39% would occur in the absence of migration, or where migration inflows and outflows are exactly equal at every age from 2012 onwards (where there is zero net migration). The remaining 17% arises from the effect of net migration on births and deaths. It is estimated therefore, that about 60% of projected population growth in the period to mid-2037 is attributable, directly or indirectly, to net migration.

Projected Population Change

The projection has the following features:

  • The population is projected to continue ageing with the median age of the population expected to rise from 39.7 years in mid-2012 to 42.8 years in mid-2037.

  • The number of children aged under 16 is projected to increase by 8% from 12.0 million in mid-2012 to 13.0 million by mid-2037. The projected increase is at school age, rather than pre-school age.

  • The number of people of working age is projected to rise from 39.4 million in mid-2012 to 44.2 million by mid-2037.

  • The number of people of pensionable age is projected to increase by 31% from 12.3 million in mid-2012 to 16.1 million by mid-2037. In mid-2012, there were 0.3 million more people of pensionable age than children aged under 16; by mid-2037 this difference is projected to be 3.1 million.

  • The population aged 80 and over is projected to grow from 3.0 million in mid-2012 to 6.2 million by mid-2037, more than doubling over 25 years. Longer-term projections suggest this rapid increase will continue throughout the projection period, tempered only by periods such as the late 2050s where the small population cohorts born in the 1970s reach this oldest age group. By mid-2087 the projections suggest there will be 11.3 million people aged 80 and over.

The change in the age distribution between mid-2012 and mid-2037 is shown in Figure 0-1.


Figure 0-1: Estimated and projected age structure of the United Kingdom population, mid-2012 and mid-2037

Figure 0-1: Estimated and projected age structure of the United Kingdom population, mid-2012 and mid-2037
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Table 0-1: Actual and projected population by age, United Kingdom, mid-1971 to mid-2087

Year All ages Under 16 16-64 65 & over (80 & over)
1971 55,928 14,257 34,263 7,408 1,287
1981 56,357 12,543 35,339 8,476 1,572
1991 57,439 11,685 36,695 9,059 2,126
2001 59,113 11,863 37,877 9,373 2,459
2011 63,285 11,883 40,944 10,458 2,915
2012 63,705 11,984 40,880 10,841 2,973
2017 65,825 12,432 41,308 12,085 3,330
2022 67,969 13,002 41,709 13,258 3,804
2032 71,713 13,048 42,197 16,468 5,567
2037 73,272 12,989 42,492 17,791 6,176
Longer-term projections
2042 74,739 13,084 43,277 18,378 6,967
2052 77,493 13,647 44,188 19,658 8,574
2062 79,904 13,896 44,921 21,087 9,015
2072 82,376 14,024 46,450 21,903 10,085
2082 85,106 14,404 47,105 23,597 10,930
2087 86,463 14,573 47,445 24,445 11,290

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

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Due to differences in past and present demographic patterns, and those assumed for the future, projected trends differ for the four countries of the UK (see Table 0-2).

  • The population of England is projected to increase by 16%, Northern Ireland by 10%, Scotland by 9% and Wales by 8% by mid-2037.


Table 0-2: Actual and projected population of the UK by constituent country, mid-1971 to mid-2062

Year United Kingdom England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
1971 55,928 46,412 2,740 5,236 1,540
1981 56,357 46,821 2,813 5,180 1,543
1991 57,439 47,875 2,873 5,083 1,607
2001 59,113 49,450 2,910 5,064 1,689
2011 63,285 53,107 3,064 5,300 1,814
2012 63,705 53,494 3,074 5,314 1,824
2017 65,825 55,414 3,132 5,407 1,871
2022 67,969 57,338 3,193 5,520 1,918
2032 71,713 60,724 3,291 5,714 1,985
2037 73,272 62,166 3,321 5,780 2,005
Longer-term projections
2042 74,739 63,536 3,346 5,836 2,021
2052 77,493 66,128 3,391 5,935 2,040
2062 79,904 68,411 3,431 6,029 2,034

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

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Underlying Assumptions

The national population projections are based on the latest available mid-year population estimates and a set of demographic assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration based on analysis of trends and expert advice. For the United Kingdom as a whole the key assumptions for the future are that:

  • Average completed family size, which has been falling from a peak of nearly 2.5 children per woman for women born in the mid-1930s, is assumed to level off at 1.89 children for women born after 2010. This is higher than the 2010-based projection which assumed an average completed family size of 1.84 children per woman in the long term. This increase is based on the observation that the falling completed family size for women has slowed in recent years, and younger cohorts partway through their childbearing years look set to have similar levels of completed fertility to those who have recently completed childbearing.    

  • Expectation of life at birth, based on the mortality rates for the year in question, is projected to rise from 78.7 years in 2012/13 to 84.0 years in 2036/37 for men and from 82.4 years in 2012/13 to 87.3 years in 2036/37 for women. In 2037, period expectation of life at birth for the UK is around 0.4 years higher for males and 0.1 years higher for females compared to the previous projections. These differences are mainly due to a combination of the changes in initial rates of mortality improvement and base mortality rates, the change in the target year and the assumed interpolation of the rates of improvement between 2012 and 2037. After 2037 the life expectancies for males converge to those in the 2010-based projections whilst those for females fall to around 0.2 years lower.

  • The long term assumption for net migration to the United Kingdom is +165,000 each year, compared with +200,000 a year in the 2010-based projections. This change reflects the most recent trends in international migration available at the time the projections were produced. New methods have been used to model migration trends in setting the migration assumptions for the 2012-based projections (see Chapter 5).

Background notes

  1. The 2012-based Population Projections for United Kingdom and constituent countries were published on 6 November 2013 (main release) and 10 December 2013 (extra variants).

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

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