Population in the UK – grow, grow, grow

New population and migration figures from the Office for National Statistics show no sign of an end to UK population growth. Read our statement.

On 23rd November, the UK’s Office for National Statistics issued updated figures for the population of England and Wales, and for long-term migration. They showed that in mid-2022, there were 60.2 million people in England and Wales, an increase of around 578,000 (1.0%) since mid-year 2021. Births were up slightly on the previous year.

On migration, ONS calculations were based on new methods, and estimated that long-term immigration for year ending June 2023 was 1.2 million (long-term means with an intention to stay for more than one year). 508,000 people emigrated from the UK, meaning that net migration was 672,000.

Our “Big Baby” inflatable flying in Parliament Square

The most recent ONS UK-wide population projections are from 2022, and may be revised upwards following these figures. They projected a total population of 69.3m in 2030 and 70 million in 2036.

our media statement

The population of England and Wales has topped 60 million for the first time, and the growth rate for the year to mid-2022 was the highest for more than 60 years. That just can’t go on. People know that a bigger population means more pressure on land, water, hospital beds, school places and public transport; more pollution, greater congestion and increasing climate emissions; and less space, less greenery, and a lower quality of life for current and future generations.

In that context, what we need, but almost certainly won’t have, is an informed, rational debate about what these numbers mean, all their implications, and what we do about them. Instead, we’re likely still to see ill-informed alarmism about low birth rates which ignores all the negative effects of population growth, as well as the available, practical policy solutions to an ageing population. We’ll also see some people leaping on these figures to justify a xenophobic anti-immigration agenda, while others will accuse everyone rightly concerned about growing population of having a xenophobic anti-immigration agenda.

We have to do better.

These figures show interesting nuances, which are likely to get lost among the rhetoric – birth rates have gone up slightly, while net migration has increased significantly, but less than ONS expected. At Population Matters, we’re campaigning for a statutory advisory body to provide independent advice to the government on demographic change, based on evidence, not ideology or politics. It’s our firm position that population growth in the UK is unsustainable for multiple reasons, but let’s all recognise that the first thing we need is a rational debate.

Taking action

Population Matters has long been calling for the UK to adopt a Sustainable Population Policy. Politicians have not been receptive, however. we believe this is partly as a result of poor understanding of the issue, as well as sensitivity about issues to do with family and migration.

In addition to our overall ask, we are now calling for an official independent advisory group to provide guidance to the government. We have written to the Prime Minister, other party leaders and, today, MPs on Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to press this case. Please support our call by contacting politicians, including your own MP, using the button below.

remit of the advisory body


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