Statement on UK Census 2021 population estimates

28 June 2022, immediate use

 Population Matters statement on Census 2021 population and household estimates for England and Wales


 Responding to: Population and household estimates, England and Wales - Office for National Statistics (

 Robin Maynard, Executive Director of Population Matters, says:

 "There will be no dancing in the streets over these numbers. People know what 3.5 million more people in England and Wales and almost 1.5 million extra households 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.

 "Despite these obvious, negative impacts felt by most people – especially the least well-off – City speculators, policymakers and most economists are addicted to growth. For them, more people mean more, cheaper units of labour, more taxpayers, more consumers. Yet people, individually and as families, deserve better: to enjoy a reasonable quality of life in a greener country on a healthy, safer planet.

"Instead of essential action over our environmental crisis, including addressing the number of high-emitting consumers in countries such as the UK, we are seeing unjustified panic over population. An increase in over-65s from 16.4% to 18.6% over ten years is hardly a raging apocalypse hurtling our way, but a predictable change a wealthy country such as the UK can readily manage and adjust to.

 "People want and are choosing smaller families: A Population Matters poll in 2021 found most people wanted two or fewer children than two or more (62%, compared to 27%). Smaller families are here to stay, and that's good news. Government should embrace this mature, positive development, not trumpet the false fears of those seeking to capitalise from unsustainable growth and the consequent impoverishment of people and planet.”


Contact: Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications

T: 0208 123 9170



Notes for editors

The Census 2021 figures released today show the usual resident population of England and Wales on Census Day, 21 March 2021 was 59,597,300. This represented an increase of more than 3.5 million (6.3%) compared with Census Day 2011. The number of people aged 65 and over had increased from 16.4% in 2011 to 18.6%.  

In October 2021, Population Matters published a report on policy options to address ageing, entitled Silver linings, not silver burdens. The full report is here and the press release here. Its findings include:

  • In 2017, the jobs of approximately 1.5 million people in the UK were assessed as being at “high risk” of being replaced by robots or other automated systems.
  • The number of over-65s in work in the UK increased by 188 percent between 1999 and 2019.
  • In the UK, the economic contribution of people over 65 was estimated in 2016/17 to be £160 billion. Allowing for inflation and other changes, it is likely that in 2021 the total contribution of those over 65s exceeds the UK government’s pension bill of £169bn.
  • Economic dependency has declined in the UK since 1992, despite an ageing population.
  • Changes in population age structure alone are expected to add no more than one additional percentage point to the average annual per-person health care expenditure growth rates in OECD countries over the next 40 years.

 Population Matters’ 2021 poll on family size in the UK can be found here.



Population Matters is a UK-based charity campaigning to achieve a sustainable global population through ethical means, to protect nature and improve people's lives.

The Chandlery

50 Westminster Bridge road



Charity no: 1114109


Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our work.

sign up