UK population grew at slowest rate since 2003 last year as Covid crisis saw thousands of migrants leave, more deaths, and births kept falling
- The UK population grew at the slowest rate since 2003 last year, ONS suggests
- Early estimates show 0.47 per cent rise in year to mid-2020 amid the pandemic
- Higher deaths, net emigration during first wave and low births listed as drivers
The UK population grew at the slowest rate in nearly two decades last year as the pandemic saw thousands of migrants leave, more deaths and births kept falling.
Estimates suggest the number of people living in the country rose by 0.47 per cent in the 12 months to mid-2020.
That was the smallest increase since 2003, when growth was 0.46 per cent, and significantly below previous projections. Meanwhile, tentative figures for the rest of the year suggest the population might actually have fallen.
The Office for National Statistics said the provisional data for the year to mid-2020 reflected higher mortality as well as longer-term trends on the birth rate.
There was net emigration of around 50,000 between March and June 2020.
That offset a historically high level of net immigration over the rest of the year, with significant non-EU arrivals and Britons returning from stints abroad.
Overall migration added around 282,000 to the population over the 12 months.
The 0.47 per cent change compares to an annual increase of 0.83 per cent seen in the year to mid-2016.
Early ONS estimates suggest the number of people living in the country rose by 0.47 per cent in the 12 months to mid-2020
There was net emigration of around 50,000 between March and June 2020. That offset a historically high level of net immigration over the rest of the 12 months, with significant non-EU arrivals and Britons returning from stints abroad. Overall migration added around 282,000 to the population in the year to mid-2020
In a blog, ONS director of public policy analysis Liz McKeown said: ‘Net migration, largely driven by non-EU arrivals but also some British citizens coming home before the pandemic fully hit the UK, was higher than the historical average up to March 2020…
‘If we look specifically at the patterns following March 2020, we can see a notable change due to the impact of travel restrictions, with net migration for quarter 2 around minus 50,000….
‘Taking this data into account, our preliminary analysis suggests the UK population grew to 67.1million by mid-2020 – a 0.5 per cent annual increase from mid-2019 – marking one of the smallest increases seen in the context of historical trends.
‘This reflects a higher number of deaths and a continued decrease in the number of births being offset by a higher level of net international migration.’
The ONS also published estimates for the size and structure of the UK population at end of year 2020 under various international migration scenarios.
Under a scenario of a net migration outflow of 100,000 in the second half of 2020, the population of the UK would be 67.0 million at the end of the year – below the early indicator of 67.1 million for mid-2020.
A firmer figure for the population at mid-2020 will be published later in the summer.
Ms McKeown said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has created a number of challenges for measuring the labour market, population and migration. At the same time there is significant interest in what impact the pandemic has had on the number of people living and working in the UK.
‘These are early population indicators based on new methods. There is uncertainty and they will likely be subject to revision in the coming months, especially as more data becomes available. In this respect they do not represent official population estimates.
‘But what they do provide are the very latest insights on what happened to the population and migration since the pandemic, using available data and new methods.’
The ONS release showed population growth was significantly below previous projections