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Changes in UK population over the last 50 years

The UK population estimates published by ONS show how the UK population has changed over the last 50 years.

Since 1964 the population of the UK has grown by over 10 million people (18.7%).  About half of this growth has occurred since 2001.

Over the earlier part of this period population change was driven mainly by variation in the number of births.  Population grew throughout the 1960s up until the early 1970s mainly as a result of the 1960s baby boom; while over the rest of the 1970s growth was subdued, reflecting falling fertility.  The very large birth cohort of 1960s baby boomers beginning to have children saw births, and hence the population, grow again in the 1980s, but births declined again through the 1990s.

A time series of UK births and deaths data on a calendar year basis is available in the Population and Health Reference Tables published by ONS.

Since 2001 there have been high levels of net inward migration, adding to the population at younger working ages. In part this was driven by the expansion of the European Union in 2004 and 2007.  This period has also seen an increasing number of births, driven by both the immigration of women of childbearing age (15-44) and rising fertility among UK-born women. 

More detail on births and fertility is available in the Births in England and Wales, 2012 release published by ONS, the Vital Events Births Reference Tables published by NRS and the Births statistics published by NISRA.

Mid-year population estimates and annual change for the UK mid-1964 onwards

Mid-year population estimates and annual change for the UK mid-1964 onwards

Notes:

  1. Source: ONS, NRS, NISRA

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During the late 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, net international migration (the difference between the numbers migrating to the UK and the numbers emigrating from the UK) started to contribute more to population change. At its peak in the year to mid-2005, net inward migration accounted for around 69% of population growth.  Detailed international migration data for the UK is available in the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report series produced by ONS.

The years since mid-2002 have also seen a marked increase in the number of births, with the number occurring in the year to mid-2012 being the highest since the year to mid-1972, although this is not necessarily the case for all UK countries, for example Scotland.

Figure 2: Main drivers of population change mid-1992 onwards

Figure 2: Main drivers of population change mid-1992 onwards

Notes:

  1. Source: ONS, NRS, NISRA

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Categories: Population, Population Change, Population Estimates, Population Estimates by Age and Sex
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