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 and 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 (called wards and enumeration districts).


UK Population

The most recent census collected information for the night of March 27th 2011. It has taken till July 2012 for 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 were in England and 3.1 million in Wales. This total is 3.7 million more than the last census in 2001, when the total was 52.4 million.

  • This is a 7.1% increase and is the largest growth total since census the British Government began taking measurements in 1801.

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

  • Net migration accounted for 48 per cent of the UK population growth in the 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 were to continue, a 10 yr old in 2011 would live with over 79 million other UK citizens by the time they reach the age of 50. Think this what that might mean for housing, public services, transport, energy and food supply! However there are many reasons why that particular growth estimate is likely to be inaccurate.

Here are some hints;

BIRTH RATE - The number of babies born per 1000 of the population in a year. If the rate rises the supply of new population increases! If it falls, the supply drops.

The current birth rate for the UK is 13 per 1000 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 - The number people who die per 1000 of the population in a year. If the rate rises the loss of population is faster! If it falls, the loss is less. The death rates in 2011 were the lowest ever recorded for England and Wales, at 6.2 per 1000 for males and 4.4 for females.

MIGRATION RATES (that's immigration and emigration that are usually presented as the number per year) The issues of migration are explored in article 2.

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

First decide how the modern characteristic 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. 

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

In 1911 the most common age of people in the UK was 25

  • The most common 2011 age (the median value ) for men is now 38.

  • The most common 2011 age (the median value ) for women is now 40.

  • Elderly people make up a bigger proportion of the population than ever before.

  • 16.4 per cent (that's is one in six people) are aged 65 and over.

Reaching 90 used to be very rare but there were 430,000 aged 90 and over in 2011, up from 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 five in England and Wales, 406,000 more than in 2001. Remember, the whole population grew by 7.1% but the under 5s 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. Just about every school child in the UK knows of the existence of this very controversial policy because it is at the extreme end of a range of policies around the world that governments use to influence their people to either lower or raise birth rate. (Can to remember other policies and where they are used?)

Unfortunately the detail of the policy gets lost in the classroom activities and even older students doing A level exams have shown very little knowledge of how complicated the policy is. We have to keep in mind that the accuracy of facts and statistics cannot be certain due to Chinese secrecy and the sheer size of the population involved.

Additional details of the policy,

  • Most learners think the whole of China is involved. In fact the Chinese government state that only 35.9% of China's population is currently subject to the one-child restriction. These are mainly the Urban (city) populations in China though 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 can be ‘exempt’ from 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 to be born 3 or 4 years after the first.

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

  • The One Child policy has been dropped in areas when a disaster kills 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 it will continue to at least 2015. However in March 2011 was some government discussion about allowing all couples who have a good reason to apply to have a second child.


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