Sense over sensation: a bigger picture of migration and old-age dependency

Posted on

Increases in the migrant population spell good news for the UK’s dependency ratio, by increasing the number of people working and contributing to society to balance out the need to support the rising numbers of older people.

The 2011 census results launched today reveal over half (55%) of the 3.7 million population increase captured in the census was due to migration. This represents seven per cent of the increase in resident population since 2001.[1]

In a report launched this week, ILC-UK highlight the role that migrant groups play in balancing the population and ensuring that there are enough adults of working age to support our ageing society. The report ‘The cost of our ageing society’[2] calls for governments to consider the impact of migration on projected dependency ratios when making decisions on immigration policy.

Old-age dependency ratios are calculated using the number of people of working age against the number of people who are not of working age. A higher dependency ratio means that there will be fewer people working to support those not of working age, with a greater strain on that group. Figures from the European Commission ‘The 2012 Ageing Report’[3] project that in the UK there will be a decline from currently around four working-age people (aged 15-64) for every person aged 65 or over, to only two working-age people for every person aged over 65 between 2010 and 2060.

However, the UK is one of the countries where projected net migration is comparatively high (compared to the rest of Europe), aiding a gentler decline in this support imbalance, and leaving the UK among just a few European countries who may well have an increase in the working age population [3, page 27].

Migration is acting as a protective force against increase in these dependency ratios. Knee-jerk and sensationalist reactions opposing the increase in migration to the UK irrespective of context should be treated with caution. Looking at the whole picture shows that migration can balance the side effects of our achievement of greater longevity and the necessity for more input from the working age population.

Jessica Watson

1. 2011 Census: Key statistics for England and Wales, March 2011
2. ILC-UK. (2012) The cost of our ageing society.
3. European Commission (2012) The 2012 Ageing Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>