1. Main points

  • The population of the UK at 30 June 2016 is estimated to be 65,648,000 people.
  • Over the year to mid-2016, the number of people resident in the UK increased by 0.8% (538,000), this growth rate is similar to the average annual growth rate since 2005.
  • The population increase of the UK reflected increases of 193,000 people through natural change (35.8% of the total increase), 336,000 through net international migration (62.4% of the total increase) and an increase of 9,500 people in the armed forces population based in the UK.
  • The UK population continues to age, but at a slower rate than recent years with only a small change to the proportion aged 65 and over (18.0% in mid-2016 compared with 17.9% in mid-2015) and an unchanged median age of 40.
  • The annual population growth varied across the UK – in England it was 0.9%, Wales 0.5%, Scotland 0.6% and Northern Ireland 0.6%.
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2. Statistician’s comment

"The population of the UK continued to grow in the year to mid-2016 at a similar rate to that seen over recent years. Net international migration continued to be the main driver, but there was also an increase in births and fewer deaths than last year.

"Population growth was not evenly distributed however, with London’s growth rate more than twice that in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the three northern English regions."

Neil Park, Head of Population Estimates Unit, Office for National Statistics

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3. Things you need to know about this release

These are the official population estimates for the UK as at 30 June 2016 and therefore reflect the size of the UK population around the time of the EU referendum (23 June 2016). They are based on the census and are updated annually to account for population change during the period from 1 July to 30 June. The two main contributors to population change are natural change (births minus deaths) and net migration (the difference between long-term moves into and out of the UK or local areas).

Information about the quality, including strengths and limitations, of the estimates published in this release can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports for population estimates and for internal migration estimates. Some of the administrative data used in estimating international immigration for local authorities (LA) in England and Wales were not available at the time of production of the mid-2016 population estimates. Further details are provided in the QMI, including an assessment of the likely impact based on the impact of the same methods being used in 2015.

This release includes national and subnational population estimates for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This statistical bulletin also covers the mid-2016 internal migration estimates for England and Wales.

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4. UK population continues to grow at 0.8% per year

The population of the UK was 65.6 million (65,648,000) in mid-2016, with a 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 0.2%. In the year to mid-2016, the population of the UK increased by 0.8%, consistent with the rate of population growth in the period since 2005, which varied between 0.6% and 0.8%. Figure 1 shows how UK population growth has varied since 1944.

In the year to mid-2016, the UK population increased by 538,000 people. In numerical terms this is the largest increase in population since the year to mid-1947 when the population increased by 551,000. Over the last 10 years, annual population change for the UK has been, on average, 482,000. There are differences between the methods and definitions used to calculate population estimates during the 1940s and now that affect the direct comparability of population estimates from these periods.

In the 11 years between mid-2005 and mid-2016, the population of the UK increased by just over 5 million people; the previous increase of 5 million took 35 years (between mid-1970 to mid-2005) and the 5 million before that were added over a 17-year period between mid-1953 and mid-1970.

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5. UK population grew by 538,000 in the year to mid-2016

At the national level population change can be split into natural change (births minus deaths), net international migration (immigration minus emigration) and other change, which at the national level reflects changes due to armed forces personnel moving into or out of the UK.

Figure 2 shows that while natural change has increased, net international migration remains the largest component of population change. Overall, natural change accounted for 35.8% of the population change, net international migration for 62.4% and other changes 1.8%.

Population change due to natural change, was 193,000 in mid-2016 (or 0.3% of the mid-2015 population), an increase of 21,000 on the previous year. It remains below the level of the peak seen between 2008 and 2014, but above the levels seen between 1992 and 2008. Figure 2 shows that natural change and overall change are slightly higher than in the year to mid-2015. Other changes increased, reflecting changes to armed forces personnel based in the UK; net international migration remained at a similar level to mid-2015.

Births and deaths

In the year to mid-2016, there were 781,000 births (an increase of 0.7% on the previous year) and 588,000 deaths (a decrease of 2.6%). Further analysis of fertility in the UK will be published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in July 2017.

The decrease in deaths is partly a result of the winter period 2015 to 2016 excess winter mortality significantly decreasing from the winter period 2014 to 2015. Further analysis from ONS has suggested that this was due mainly to the most prevalent strain of the flu virus impacting younger people rather older people, who are more at risk.

Decreases in mortality over recent years have resulted in increasing life expectancies in the UK and a narrowing of the gap in life expectancies between men and women. This reflects a fall in the proportions of males who smoke or hold a higher-risk occupation. This is one reason why the ratio of males to females in the UK population has continued to increase. There are now 98 men for every 100 women, compared with 95 men per 100 women in mid-2005. The other main reason for the increase in this ratio is that net international migration results in more men residing in the UK as they tend to migrate to the UK more than women.

International migration

Net international migration in the year to mid-2016 was at a similar level to that seen in mid-2015, at 336,000 or 0.5% of the mid-2015 population. Compared with mid-2015, there were 13,000 more immigrants and 13,000 more emigrants. Analysis of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) data, that form the basis of these estimates, showed that these changes were not statistically significant. It showed that net migration remained around record levels, but it was stable compared with recent years; while immigration levels were among the highest estimates recorded.

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. A fuller assessment of the indirect effect of migration on the size of the population would consider:

  • births to, and 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) who were themselves immigrants

Some additional information for England and Wales can be obtained in Parents’ Country of Birth 2015, this showed that in the calendar year 2015, of all births in England and Wales 27.5% were to mothers born outside of the UK. Background information on the UK population, its size, characteristics and the causes of population change is available in the Overview of the UK Population: March 2017.

Other changes

Other changes, comprising changes to the size of the armed forces stationed in the UK and other special population adjustments, tend to have small effects on the national population but can have a larger impact at a local level. In the year to mid-2016, the UK population increased by 9,500 due to other changes, compared with an increase of 5,800 in the year to mid-2015. This reflects trends such as the return of British Armed Forces based in Germany.

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6. Population of England reaches 55 million

Table 1 shows that, of the four countries of the UK, England’s population grew the fastest to mid-2016, over both a 1-year period and a 10-year period, and has exceeded 55 million for the first time.

While the population in England grew faster than the rest of the UK, population growth at the regional level varied from 1.3% in London to 0.5% in the North East. The datasets accompanying this release, for example Table MYE3, provide population estimates for the four UK countries, regions and counties of England, and for local and unitary authorities across the UK.

Comparing the mid-2016 and mid-2015 population estimates at the local authority level demonstrates that population trends vary across the UK. These include:

  • the total population grew in 364 local authorities in the year to mid-2016, compared with 350 to mid-2015
  • while the 26 local authorities showing population decreases to mid-2016 were spread throughout England, Wales and Scotland, 17 of these were in coastal areas
  • of the 14 authorities showing population increases of 2% or above, 8 of these were in London

Five of these local authorities are in Inner London – Westminster, Camden, City of London, Islington and Haringey; the other three a block in East London – Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Barking and Dagenham. This growth pattern is consistent with the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS’s) Analysis of City Regions based on mid-2015 population estimates. This shows that while city regions have grown faster than the rest of the UK since 2011, the drivers of growth in each city region vary. London is growing faster than the others, because of its young age structure and attractiveness to international migrants.

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7. UK population continues to age

Returning to the overall UK population, its composition is determined by the pattern of births, deaths and migration that have taken place in previous years. The pyramid in Figure 3a shows some important trends in the age structure of the UK, comparing the population at mid-2016 and 10 years previously.

The proportion of the population aged 65 and over reached 18.0% in mid-2016, representing a rise of 0.1 percentage points on mid-2015. On this measure the rapid ageing of the population seen between 2009 and 2015 may be temporarily slowing as relatively smaller cohorts turn age 65. By contrast, the large peak of people born in the year to mid-1947 means that there is a large cohort now aged 69.

The effects of international immigration to the UK since mid-2006 are visible in the pyramid. For most ages, the peaks and troughs present in the pyramid in mid-2006 are visible in the mid-2016 data, shifted by 10 years. However, the profile of the mid-2016 pyramid is wider and flatter, especially for those aged 20 to 37 in mid-2016 (who were 10 to 27 in mid-2006). Such a change can only be generated by new population being added through net international migration.

The peaks and troughs in younger populations result in a mid-2016 population of 0 to 10 year olds that is 13.0% higher than this age group in mid-2006 (1.0 million more people). However, there are 16.3% fewer 11 to 18 year olds in the mid-2016 population (1.1. million fewer people).

The population pyramid in Figure 3b is interactive, allowing you to compare the population structures of different areas and over time. An interactive pyramid that can be customised further is available as part of the Population Estimates Analysis Tool.

Figure 3b: Interactive population pyramids

These pyramids show that areas located near one another can have very different population structures. For example, Ceredigion’s population pyramid has a very different shape from neighbouring Powys, with a peak of people around their early 20s, reflecting the presence of a large student population in Ceredigion. Some urban areas such as Manchester and London authorities show a different pattern again, with high proportions of people in their 20s and 30s.

As part of this release a time series of median age by local authority (MYE6) has been published. Median age is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups – that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older. Median age provides a useful summary measure of the age structure of the population. These show:

  • median age in the UK has remained unchanged for 2 years, at 40 years old
  • age structures vary across the UK – Northern Ireland still has a relatively young age structure, with 16.0% of the population being aged 65 and over, and a median age of 38.3
  • age structures vary subnationally – London has a notably young age structure, with 11.6% of its population aged 65 and over (Tower Hamlets showing the lowest proportion at 6.0%) and a median age of 34.8; the South West, by contrast, has 21.6% of its population aged 65 and over (33.3% in West Somerset), and a median age of 43.6
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8. Growth in population aged under 65 is highest in London

In addition to looking at older age groups, population estimates are often used alongside population projections to understand demand for education services or the structure of the working-age population. In mid-2016, 18.8% of the UK population were aged 0 to 15 and 63.1% aged 16 to 64, with the remaining 18.0% being aged 65 and over. Figures 4a to 4c show the growth in population over 5 years for the four countries of the UK and the regions of England, by the three main broad age groups.

These figures show that while the population aged 65 and over is growing across the UK and across the regions of England at a similar rate, growth rates in the younger groups are much lower. They are also less even – while the proportions of people aged 0 to 15 and 16 to 64 have grown in England and Northern Ireland since mid-2011, growth in these groups has been small or negative in Wales and Scotland.

Within England, a clear regional difference can be seen. London had the highest growth in both the young and working age groups, and has the highest number and proportion of people in each of these age groups of any region. This reflects the particular drivers of population change in London, notably:

  • a young age structure, which produces large numbers of births,
  • relatively high net international migration of predominantly working age people
  • net internal migration inwards of young working age adults
  • net outwards internal migration of those aged 30 and over
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9. Drivers of population change vary across the UK

Changes in local populations can be driven by a variety of components – including international migration, internal migration, births and deaths. Interactive population maps are available in Figure 5 for viewing the mid-2016 population estimates overall change and changes in its components.

To use this interactive tool select a local authority to view the population change and the components of change in the mid-2016 population estimates. The components of change maps compare each driver of change to the mid-2015 population total for each area. Other changes (for example, in special populations such as prisoners) are included in the datasets that accompany this bulletin, but are not presented in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Map of population change mid-2015 to mid-2016 and main components of change, local authorities in UK

Internal migration changes are commented on further in section 10, where maps separating in-and-out migration are available. The following demonstrate examples of patterns that can be observed in the remaining components.

Subnational population growth

In the 12 months to mid-year 2016, many parts of London experienced relatively high levels of population growth while growth across the rest of the UK and particularly in coastal areas, was lower (as described in section 4).

A number of authorities in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire also had relatively high population growth. As a result, population growth in the East Midlands was faster in the year to mid-2016 than the previous year and the fastest of the English regions outside London. The other maps show a variety of drivers for population change in these areas.

Subnational international migration

Certain urban areas have high net international migration, despite being surrounded by areas that have negative rates. These include areas home to higher education institutions, such as Southampton, Exeter, Newcastle, Ceredigion, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Migration Statistics Quarterly Bulletin showed, however, that student international immigration decreased significantly in the year to June 2016 and student areas in general have received a smaller share of immigration in the mid-2016 estimates.

The high-growth areas of London show the highest levels of net international migration and negative net internal migration. This pattern can be seen in other areas where migrants initially settle, such as Oxford or Boston, but subsequently move onto another local authority. Another explanation for the negative net-internal migration in London is that many parents with young children move out of London.

Subnational natural change (births minus deaths)

The younger age-structures of places like London, Northern Ireland, Manchester and Birmingham tend to lead to higher numbers of births than deaths, resulting in relatively high levels of positive natural change.

Around a third of local authority areas showed negative natural change, reflecting older age structures. Negative natural change can be seen in clusters all around the coastlines of England, Wales and Scotland. These areas are typically part of the “Rural coastal and amenity” sub-group in the 2011 local authority classification and as shown by Table MYE6 many have high median ages.

Population change for groups of areas can be explored using classifications, such as the rural-urban classification and the 2011 local authority classification. The datasets accompanying this release (such as Table MYE3) allow groups of areas to be explored through data on English regions; we welcome your feedback on other ways you would like to see the data published.

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10. Moves between local authorities in England and Wales similar to last year

Sections 10, 11 and 12 replace the previous internal migration annual publication for England and Wales. Internal migration is a component used in the production of the mid-2016 population estimates for England and Wales. Estimates of internal migration moves for areas within Northern Ireland are produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA); estimates of internal migration moves for areas within Scotland are produced by National Records of Scotland (NRS). A comparison of ONS’s, NISRA’s and NRS’s methods is available.

In the 12-month period between July 2015 and June 2016, an estimated 2.85 million people moved between local authorities in England and Wales. This is the same level as shown in the previous two 12-month periods.

The following comparisons consider internal migration at regional and local authority level. There are several other factors that will influence total population change in an area, including births, deaths and international migration. This means that total population change will not necessarily be in the same direction as net internal migration.

The two regions with the highest numbers of moves in and moves out were London and the South East although they also have the largest populations. To take account of the effect of population size we look at the number of moves per 1,000 population.

The South West had the highest rate of inflows (26.8 moves per 1,000 population (mid-2015)) and London had the highest rate of outflows (33.6 moves per 1,000 population (mid-2015)) (Figure 6).

Apart from London with a net outflow of 10.8 per 1,000 population (mid-2015), all other regions, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had net inflows, with the highest rate in the South West (5.5 per 1,000 population (mid-2015)).

Previous years’ internal migration estimates show that this general pattern of a large net outflow from London and a large net inflow to other parts of southern and eastern England has existed for a number of years.

Figure 7: Maps of inflow, outflow and net flow per 100 population (mid-2015), between local authorities in England and Wales, year ending June 2016

In total there were 223 local authorities with more people moving in than out, of which 93 had a net inflow of more than 5 per 1,000 population (mid-2015) and 25 had a net inflow of more than 10 per 1,000 population. Many of those were in regions that also had a higher net inflow: South West, East of England, South East and East Midlands. However, there were still local authorities within these regions that had a net outflow, demonstrating there is considerable within-region variation.

Conversely, there were 125 local authorities with more people moving out than in, of which 50 had a net outflow of more than 5 per 1,000 population (mid-2015) and 25 had a net outflow of more than 10 per 1,000 population. London had a particular concentration of local authorities with high net outflows, reflecting the high net outflow for the London region overall. An important explanation for this is that many parents with young children move out of London. London is also the most common region of first residence for international migrants to the UK and some of these may later move to other regions, potentially also with children. Similar factors may also contribute to the high net outflows from many provincial cities.

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11. Impact of cross-border migration on the population of England and Wales

Cross-border moves are where people move, in either direction, between England and Wales (combined) and Northern Ireland and Scotland.

As with the previous year, more people moved out of England and Wales than into England and Wales (a net flow of negative 8,800). Flow levels were largest for people aged 19 to 29. Net flows to Scotland (from England and Wales) were highest for people aged 19 to 21 and net flows from Scotland (to England and Wales) were highest for people aged 23 to 25. Conversely, net flows to Northern Ireland were highest for people aged 22 to 23 and net flows from Northern Ireland highest for people aged 19 to 21 (Figure 8).

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12. Characteristics of movers in England and Wales by age, sex and area

Most moves occur in early adulthood with the peak age for movers being 19, the main age at which people leave home for study. There is another smaller peak at age 22; in many cases this will reflect graduates leaving university, moving for employment, further study or returning to their home address.

Levels of moves remain comparatively high for those aged in their 20s and 30s but gradually decline with age. This may reflect people becoming more settled in their employment, in an area or in relationships, or because they have school-age children.

However, from those aged in their late 70s onwards, the proportion of people moving rises slightly. There are many reasons why people of this age may wish to move, including being closer to their family, downsizing, or to access support and care.

In the London region, outflows were 7,800 higher than inflows for people aged 19, a peak in net outflows despite large numbers moving into London. This is likely to be driven by young adults moving in and out of London for higher education. The number of people moving into London outnumbered the number of people moving out of London for people in their early to mid 20s. The peak occurred at age 23 and is likely to be driven by young adults seeking work in London, potentially after they graduated from university. Otherwise, there is a net outflow for all other ages from London, which is highest – after aged 19 – for people in their 30s and 40s along with young children.

A way of considering the age and sex profile of movers is to consider how it compares with the age and sex profile of the general population. For the total number of internal migration moves the sex ratio is fairly neutral; in the year to June 2016 around 1.4 million (48%) of moves were by males and 1.5 million (52%) were by females.

In Figure 9 where the solid pyramid (moves) is wider than the outline pyramid (population), people at that age have a higher propensity to move. This applies to very young children and adults aged between 19 and their late 30s. For all other ages the outline pyramid is wider than the solid pyramid indicating people who have a lower propensity to move.

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13. UK has third highest population in Europe

The Overview of the UK Population: March 2017 presents charts illustrating how the UK population compares with the other 32 member states of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association. It shows that, using a 1 January 2016 population estimate, the UK was estimated to have the third largest population and the fourth highest population density. Further comparisons using 2015 data are available from UK Perspectives 2016: The UK in a European context.

The size of the UK population living in EU countries has been analysed in What information is there on British migrants living in Europe?: Jan 2017 using the 2010 to 2011 round of European censuses. This shows that around 900,000 UK citizens are long-term residents of other EU countries, with large populations living in Spain, France, Ireland and Germany.

Data are available on the EU-born population living in the UK. The Office for National Statistics’s (ONS's) Population of the UK by Country of Birth and Nationality: 2015 shows that in 2015 there were 3.2 million non-UK born residents born in the EU. This compares with 5.4 million non-UK born residents born outside of the EU.

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15. What has changed in this publication?

An important change in this release is that it combines commentary previously published separately as Internal migration, England and Wales and Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This reflects the importance of internal migration as a component of the population estimates and the benefits of using the two publications together.

Further changes compared with last year’s releases include:

  • the availability of estimates of median age by local authority for England and Wales, as dataset Table MYE6
  • the separation of the smaller publication dataset tables and the larger, machine-readable “detailed time series” dataset tables into two separate files
  • the availability of interactive graphs and maps within the bulletin itself

Methods changes for this year are described in the Methodology Guide for mid-2016 UK Population Estimates (England and Wales). We welcome your comments on the usefulness and presentation of the population estimates in this release. Please contact the population estimates team using the email address pop.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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16. Upcoming changes to this bulletin

A number of changes to methods will be introduced to the mid-2017 estimates to be published in June 2018. A back-series of estimates, for mid-2012 to mid-2016, using these new methods will be published in summer 2018. Further details can be found in the Methodology Guide for mid-2016 UK Population Estimates (England and Wales).

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17. Quality and methodology

The Population estimates Quality and Methodology Information report and Internal migration Quality and Methodology Information report contain important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • uses and users of the data
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Mid-year population estimates relate to the usually resident population. They account for long-term international migrants but not for short-term. This approach is consistent with the standard UN definition for population estimates, which is based upon the concept of usual residence and includes people who reside, or intend to reside, in the country for at least 12 months, whatever their nationality.

Mid-year population estimates are compiled to provide information about the size of the population and how it changes over time. This information is used for planning services, managing the economy and in the calculation of rates where a population denominator is required, such as social and economic indicators.

Net international migration estimates quoted in this report include net flows of asylum seekers and refugees where applicable. Other changes include moves of armed forces personnel at home and overseas.

Measures of statistical uncertainty are available for the years mid-2012 to mid-2015.

Methods guides, which detail the data sources and methodology used to produce the mid-year population estimates are available for the UK countries:

Further information and research is published on the population statistics research page. Revisions policies for population statistics include the mid-year estimates. It explains how revisions to statistics are categorised and implemented by ONS, including revisions following a census.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Neil Park
Telephone: +44 (0)1329 444661