UK population projections are growing faster than previously thought

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The UK’s population will reach 70 million by mid-2026, faster than previously thought, due to higher levels of net migration, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

The ONS projection of 315,000 for long-term annual net immigration is significantly higher than the assumed long-term level of 245,000 on which the Office for Budget Responsibility’s latest fiscal and economic forecasts are based.

However, this is slightly lower than estimates published in December by the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, which provided a base case of net migration falling to around 350,000 by 2030.

If the OBR adopted the ONS numbers, which it is not obliged to do, this would increase the size of the UK workforce over its five-year forecast horizon, with a corresponding increase in gross domestic product and tax receipts .

Jonathan Portes, a professor at King’s College London, said this could add around 0.3-0.4% to GDP and tax receipts by the end of the OBR forecast, and therefore could “slightly improve the outlook for growth and fiscal position” globally. the March budget statement.

The statistics agency published population projections based on the 2021 census for the first time. It also revised its assumptions on the long-term level of net international migration, which it expects to be stable at 315,000 from 2028 onwards, and on the natural growth of population.

The ONS said the UK population is now set to increase by 6.6 million people in the 15 years between mid-2021 and mid-2036, an increase of 9.9%, from an estimate of 67 million to 73.7 million.

This increase includes 541,000 more births than deaths and net international migration of 6.1 million.

However, the ONS warned that the figures are based on current and past trends, as well as “expert advice” on the “likelihood of higher levels of international migration in the long term” and should not be taken as a prediction. The agency usually does not take into account the effect of political changes.

“Our projections. . . they are not predictions. If immigration falls, our assumptions for future projections will also fall,” said James Robards, head of population and household projections at the ONS.

When the ONS last published population projections in early 2022 – shortly after the introduction of post-Brexit curbs on movement between the UK and the EU – it thought net immigration would fall in short term and would have stood at around 205,000 per year.

Since then, the number of people arriving in the UK has soared, with record inflows of international students, health and care sector hires and refugees from Ukraine and other countries, pushing net immigration to a record high of 745,000 in 2022.

However, both the Home Office and independent analysts predict inflows will slow dramatically in the coming years, partly due to new government measures that will prevent students and healthcare workers from bringing family members to the UK.

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