ONS 2018-based subnational population estimates

Briefing paper

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published mid-year population estimates for 2018, providing estimates for England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, regions and local authorities. This note summarises the main points arising from the data for England, beginning with a look at population change over the 12-month period 2017-18, before going on to look at longer-term trends between 2008 and 2018.

Population change from 2017-18

The population of England in 2018 was just under 56.0million, translating to an increase of 358,000 (0.6%) when compared with the 2017 estimate. Around 41.6% of this rise was accounted for by the growing number of people aged 65+ (149,000). Those aged 0-15 accounted for 30.9% of the rise, increasing by 110,000. The number of people aged 16-64, a traditional proxy for the working age population, increased by around 99,000 (27.5%) from 2017-18. At a regional level, London’s population increased the most in absolute terms between 2017 and 2018, rising by 83,100 to just over 8.9million. London also saw the highest growth in relative terms – with a population increase of over 0.9% from 2017-18. All regions experienced growth over the 12-month timeframe, with the North East seeing the smallest population rise in both relative (0.4%) and absolute (13,200) terms.

Looking at the population estimates by age shows that the South West region has seen some of the largest absolute increases in people aged 65 and over between 2017 and 2018. For example, Cornwall saw the highest increase of all England’s Local Authorities with an additional 2,200 people in this cohort. This was followed by Wiltshire with 2,100 additional people aged over 65 and then Dorset (1,800 people). Contrasting this, areas of London saw decreases or very low increases in the population aged over 65. For example, Barking and Dagenham saw a decrease of 41 (0.2%) people in this cohort over the year; Havering saw an increase of only 18 people; and people aged over 65 in the City of London increased by just 82 (5.5%).

Population change over the last decade

National change

Over the last decade the population of England has risen by 4.2million, equating to an annual change of 0.8%. The main driver of change has been the increase in people aged 65+, with this cohort accounting for more than 1.9million of the overall growth in total population between 2008 and 2018. Those aged 16-64 accounted for around 1.3million of this growth, with people aged 0-15 accounting for the remaining 896,000. On an annual basis, the number of people aged 65+ increased by 2.1% from 2008-18, well above the increases of 0.4% p.a. and 0.9% p.a. for those aged 16-64 and 0-15 respectively.

Regional Change

In absolute and relative terms, London experienced the largest population increase of any region from 2008-18, with the number of people growing by 1.1million (1.3% p.a.). Its growth was driven predominantly by substantial increases in the number of people aged 0-15 (growth of 288,000, or 1.7% p.a.) and 16-64 (627,000, or 1.1% p.a.). The annual percentage rise in the number of people aged 16-64 over the last decade in London was around three times higher than all of the other regions in England.

All regions saw an increase in their populations between 2008 and 2018, although as Figure 1 shows, the level of change varies significantly.

Local Authority Change

At a local authority level, the main points to note in terms of population change between 2008 and 2018 are as follows:

Of the 317 districts in England, the five fastest growing districts in relative terms are all London boroughs. The total population of the borough of Tower Hamlets has grown the fastest year-on-year at 3.2% since 2008. In 2018 there were just over 85,800 more residents.

There are 17 districts which saw their total populations decline between 2008 and 2018, including Kensington & Chelsea, Barrow-in-Furness, Copeland, Ceredigion and Blackpool.

Around one in four districts experienced stagnant or negative growth in the number of people aged 0-15 between 2008 and 2018. This includes Barrow-in-Furness, Derbyshire Dales and High Peak.

In the 16-64 age band, while Birmingham saw the largest absolute population increase between 2008 and 2018 (67,600 additional people), the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets (3.3% p.a.) and Newham (2.7% p.a.) saw the biggest year-on-year growth. Outside London, Coventry was the fastest growing district, seeing growth of 2.1% in its population aged 16-64 (45,700 more people).

With the exception of Barking & Dagenham, every district in England saw growth in its population aged 65+ from 2008-18. The City of London had the highest relative growth at 4.5% per annum and Cornwall had the highest absolute increase in people aged 65+ seeing an additional 31,100 more people in the cohort over the decade.

Implications of data

The increase in the number of people aged 65+ over the last decade has been significant and ONS projections indicate that elderly people will account for an increasing share of total population in the future. This will have a number of implications, including putting pressure on the social care system and the type of housing required in areas. The role played by assisted living and extra scheme schemes in meeting future housing need is likely to become prominent.

London and the South East have been the main drivers of population growth in England over the last decade. Other parts of the country will need to see higher levels of growth if the government’s aim of rebalancing the economy is to be achieved. This has implications in terms of housing and employment land requirements and ensuring that future provision in areas fully reflects economic development objectives.

Should you wish to discuss the population data for an area in more detail, please contact a member of the Economics Team.

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