2011 Census Release: How are we Ageing?

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Results from the 2011 census, released by the ONS this week[1], reveal that the population of England and Wales has now reached 56.1 million. This is an increase of over 7 per cent on 2001 figures and marks the largest growth between any two censuses since the first in 1801.

Not only are we growing in size, we are also getting older. In 1911, 30.6 per cent of the population were aged 14 or under, in 2011 this percentage fell to under 18 per cent. Over the same period the percentage share of the 65-89 age group rose from 5.2 to 15.7 per cent.

One in six of us are now aged 65 and over. This is an increase of 0.9 million on 2001. Meanwhile, the population aged over 90 rose from 0.7 per cent (336,000) in 2001 to 0.8 per cent (429,000).

There are also more children under five in 2011 than there were in 2001, this is due both to increases in total fertility rate and number of women of childbearing age in the population, mainly a result of migration (See ILC-UK’s recent blog on dependency ratios [2]).

Although there are some ageing ‘hotspots’ (on the Local Authority level), notably in North Norfolk, West Somerset and Christchurch in Dorset where over 28 per cent of residents are 65 and over, older people comprise a relatively consistent proportion of the population throughout England and Wales at around 16 per cent.

Local authorities with large urban concentrations tend to have relatively few older residents. London is the only region which has seen a fall in the proportion of older inhabitants (aged 65+, 1.2 per cent fewer) since the last census. Meanwhile there has been a percentage point rise in all other regions of between 0.5 and 1 per cent in the proportion of older residents.

The ONS projects that the average age of England’s population will rise from its current level of 39.7 to 39.9 years in 2020 and 42.2 years by 2035. Meanwhile the number of people of state pension age (SPA) is projected to increase by 28 per cent from 12.2 million to 15.6 million by 2035. This reflects the higher number of people born immediately after the Second World War and also those who were born in the 1960s ‘baby boom’ reaching state pension age over the next 25 years. This will inevitably have repercussions for the economy in terms of loss of experienced workforce and additional pension and care provision.

Florence Vojak

[1] ONS Census Release, 11th December 2012
[2] ILC-UK Blog: Migration and Old Age Dependency
[3] ONS 2011-based subnational population projections

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