The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released 2020-based population projections up to the year 2040 at a national level. This note provides a summary of the data and compares the 2020-based projections to earlier releases. Local authority-based projections are due to be released in 2023.

2020-Based Population Projections

Table 1 shows population estimates for the UK between 2020 and 2040 for the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020-based projections. The 2020-based projections show that between 2020 and 2040 the population of the UK is expected to increase by 3.3 million, equating to an annual rise of 0.2%. This would represent a lower annual increase compared to previous projections. For example, annual population growth in the 2014-based projections from 2020-40 was more than double at 0.5% and the absolute increase was 7.2 million.

Table 1: UK Population, 2020-2040 (millions)

ONS 2020-based Population Projections - Table 1
Source: ONS.

Births, Deaths and Migration in the 2020-based Projections

The 2020-based projections indicate that between 2020 and 2040 in the UK:

  • There will be 13.2 million births.
  • There will be 14.2 million deaths.
  • Net migration will increase by 4.2 million.

The projections show the number of deaths to be higher than the number of births, giving a negative natural change figure of around 1 million.

Age Structure of the UK

The 2020-based data show the number of people aged 0-15 are projected to decline by 0.7% per annum between 2020 and 2040, representing a fall of more than 1.7 million. Over the same timeframe, those aged 16-64 are expected to increase at 0.1% per annum, equivalent to a rise of just under 615,000. The age group with the largest projected rise between 2020 and 2040 are those aged 65+, with a projected increase of 1.5% per annum or 4.4 million in total. Table 2 presents the data in more detail.

Table 2: 2020-based Population Projections by age group (millions)

ONS 2020-based Population Projections - Table 2
Source: ONS

Table 3 shows that in 2020, those aged 16-64 accounted for the highest proportion of the UK’s population at 62.4%. Those aged 0-15 accounted for 19% and the remaining 18.6% were aged 65+. By 2040, the structure of the UK population is projected to have changed slightly. Those aged 16-64 are expected to account for a lower proportion (60.3%) of the total population and so too are people aged 0-15 (down to 15.6%). Those aged 65+ are expected to account for a larger proportion at 24.1%, which emphasises the long-term trend Source: ONS. of the UK having an ageing  population.

Table 3: Share of UK Population by Age Group, 2020-based Population Projections

ONS 2020-based Population Projections - Table 3
Source: ONS

The change in age structure can also be seen in Figure 1, which presents a population pyramid for 2020-40. For both males and females, the proportion of those aged under 65 in the UK is projected to decrease whereas the proportion of those aged 65+ is expected to increase. In 2020, males 65+ accounted for 17% of the UK male population and by 2040 this is expected to have risen to 22%. Similarly for females, in 2020 those aged 65+ accounted for 20% of the female population and by 2040 this is projected to increase to 26%.

Figure 1: Population Pyramid of UK

ONS 2020-based Population Projections - Figure 1
Source: ONS, 2020-based Population Projections


The 2020-based projections suggest the UK’s population is going to grow at a significantly lower rate than previous releases. They also suggest an increasing share of the population will be in older age groups. As the older population tend to live in smaller household groups, it will be interesting to see how these dynamics play out in future household projections. Regardless, it will become increasingly important to provide homes that meet the needs of the older population.

The fact that older people are expected to account for an increasing proportion of the population will also have implications for health and the economy. An older population is likely to make more use of GP’s, hospitals etc., while there may also be fewer people to provide such provision. This could put further pressure on health and social care services.

This briefing note was compiled by Richard Cook, Director – Economics and Niamh Ruane, Economic Analyst. For more information about the contents of this note please contact us.