Coastline in the News

The National census of the UK population takes place every ten years. A huge amount of information about the size and characteristics of the UK's population is collected. When all of it is finally published, it will have enough detail to see the similarities and differences in the population right down to local areas.


UK Population

The most recent census collected information for the night of 27th March, 2011. It has taken until July 2012 for the data to be added up and the first whole- country summaries have just been published. Here are some of the key headlines!

The UK's population has never been larger than it is now.

The population in England and Wales was 56.1 million, 53.0 million people were in England and 3.1 million people in Wales.

  • This total is 3.7 million more people than in the 2001 census, when the total was 52.4 million.

  • This is a 7.1% increase in population and is the largest growth shown in a census since the British Government began recording the population in 1801.

  • Natural change (the difference between births and deaths) accounted for 52% of the UK population growth in 2010 and this has been an increasing trend throughout the decade.

  • Migration accounted for 48 % of the UK population growth in 2010 with the number of migrants entering the UK remaining at similar levels to those seen over the past six years.

If this rate of growth continues, a 10 year old in 2011 would live with over 79 million other UK citizens by the time they reach the age of 50! Think what that might mean for housing, public services, transport, energy and food supplies! However there are loads of reasons why that growth estimate is likely to be inaccurate.

Here are some hints;

BIRTH RATE - This is the number of babies born per 1000 people in the population in a year. If the birth rate rises the population increases! If it falls, the population drops.

The current birth rate for the UK is 13 new babies per 1000 people and it has been steadily rising:

2011 13.0
2010 13.1
2009 12.9
2008 13.0
2007 12.8
2006 12.5
2005 12.1
2004 12.1
2003 11.8
2002 11.3
2001 11.4

DEATH RATE - this is the number people who die per 1000 people of the population in a year. If the death rate rises the loss of population is faster! If it falls, the loss is less. In 2011 the lowest ever death rate was recorded for England and Wales, at 6.2 people per 1000 for men and 4.4 people per 1000 for women.

MIGRATION RATES - immigration and emigration are usually shown as the number of people coming into or out of the country each year. The issues of migration are explored in article 2.

Try the quiz on the next screen to decide how some of the characteristics of the UK might affect birth rate, death rate and migration.

First decide how the modern characteristics of the UK in each top box might affect population change. You might want to discuss this in groups or as a class. Then click on the box or boxes that you have agreed will be most affected by this characteristic.

Then click on the box or boxes that you have agreed will be most affected by this characteristic. 

Flash Player Required

Get Adobe Flash player

It is well known that the UK population is ageing and the 2011 census shows us this in a range of measurements:

  • The 2011 census revealed that the most common age for men is now 38 years of age and the most common age for women is now 40. By comparison, in 1911 the most common age of people was 25 years of age.

  • Elderly people make up a bigger proportion of the population than ever before - one in six people (16.4%) are aged 65 and over.

  • Reaching 90 years of age used to be very rare but there were 430,000 over-90's in 2011, compared with 340,000 in 2001 and 13,000 in 1911.

However there is also a surprise at the other end of the age scale:

  • In 2011, there were 3.5 million children under the age of 5 in England and Wales, that's 406,000 more than in 2001.

  • Remember, the whole population grew by 7.1%, but the number of under-5's grew by 11.6% which is good news for the long term balance of our population.

Did you know?

The Chinese government’s one child policy began in 1978 to lower the population in China. In very general terms it means that parents can only have one child. Most people in the UK know about this very unusual policy because it is at the extreme end of a range of policies used around the world by some governments to influence their people to either lower or raise the birth rate. However, if we look more closely, we can see that there are exceptions to the policy which not everyone knows about!

This Brainbox gives you more detail about what has been happening in China. We have to keep in mind that the accuracy of facts and statistics cannot be certain due to Chinese secrecy and the huge size of the population involved.

  • Most people think the whole of China is involved. In fact the Chinese government states that only 35.9% of China's population is involved to the one-child restriction. The people involved are mainly the urban (city) populations in China; although Hong Kong and Macau and all foreigners in China are not involved.

  • Couples living in rural (countryside) areas, ethnic minority communities and parents without any brothers or sisters themselves do not have to follow the policy. In most rural areas, families are allowed to apply to have a second child if the first is a girl, or has some form of disability as long as the second child is born 3 or 4 years after the first.

  • In two wealthy southern provinces of Guangdong and Hainan, rural couples are allowed two children.

  • The one child policy was dropped in areas when a disaster killed children in the family like the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008 when schools collapsed killing large numbers of pupils.

  • In 2010, the Chinese government reviewed the policy and published a statement that the policy will continue to at least 2015. However in March 2011 there was some government discussion about allowing all couples who have a good reason to apply to have a second child.


Related Articles...

Stuck in a Rut

Stuck in a Rut

Migration in the UK

Migration in the UK