Demography of the United Kingdom
The population of the United Kingdom is considered an example of a population which has undergone the 'demographic transition' - that is, the transition from a (typically) pre-industrial population with high birth and mortality rates and only slow population growth, through a stage of falling mortality and faster rates of population growth, to a stage of low birth and mortality rates with, again, lower rates of population growth. This population growth through 'natural change' has been accompanied in the past two decades by growth through net international migration into the UK.
According to the 2011 census, the total population of the United Kingdom was around 63,182,000. It is the third-largest in the European Union (behind Germany and France) and the 22nd-largest in the world. Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world at 259 people per square kilometre, due to the particularly high population density in England. Almost one-third of the population lives in England's southeast, which is predominantly urban and suburban, with about 8 million in the capital city of London, the population density of which is just over 5,200 per square kilometre.
The United Kingdom's assumed high literacy rate (99% at age 15 and above) is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 (Scotland 1872, free 1890) and secondary level in 1900. Parents are obliged to have their children educated from the ages of 5 to 16 (with legislation passed to raise this to 18), and can continue education free of charge in the form of A-Levels, vocational training or apprenticeship to age 18. About 40% of British students go on to post-secondary education (18+). The Church of England and the Church of Scotland function as the national churches in their respective countries, but all the major religions found in the world are represented in the United Kingdom.
The UK's population is predominantly White British. Being located close to continental Europe, the countries that formed the United Kingdom were subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent, including Roman occupation for several centuries. Historically, British people were thought to be descended mainly from the different ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century: pre-Celtic, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman. Although Celtic languages are partially spoken in Scotland, Cornwall, and Northern Ireland, the predominant language overall is English. In North and West Wales, Welsh is widely spoken as a first language, but much less so in the South East of the country, where English is the predominant language.
|This section requires expansion with: a brief outline of past recording practices. (April 2015)|
During the Industrial Revolution, the life expectancy of children increased dramatically. The proportion of the children born in London who died before the age of five decreased from 74.5 per thousand in 1730–1749 to 31.8 per thousand in 1810–1829. According to Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore, the population of England and Wales, which had remained steady at 6 million from 1700 to 1740, rose dramatically after 1740.
The Great Irish Famine, which began in the 1840s, caused the deaths of one million Irish people, and caused well over a million to emigrate. Mass emigration became entrenched as a result of the famine and the population continued to decline until the mid-20th century.
Based on the 2011 census the population of England was 53.012m (84% of the UK), Scotland was estimated at 5.295m (8.4%), Wales was 3.063m (4.8%) and Northern Ireland 1.811m (2.9%).
|Part||Population (2011)||Percentage (2011)||Area||Population density|
|Northern Ireland||1,810,863||2.9||13,843 km²||130/km²|
|United Kingdom||63,181,775||100||243,820 km²||259/km²|
The mid-2014 population estimates show that the UK population was 64.6m. The population of England was 54.3m, which accounts for 84% of the UK population. Followed by Scotland at 5.3m (8% of the UK population), Wales at 3.1m (or 5% of the UK population) and Northern Ireland at 1.8 million (3% of the UK population).
The UK Office for National Statistics' 2012-based National Population Projections  indicated that if recent trends continue, the UK's population would increase to 73.3 million people by 2037. This is an average annual growth rate of 0.6% per annum. Projected population growth rates over that period vary for the different parts of the UK. For England it is 0.6% per annum, for Scotland and Wales, 0.3%, and for Northern Ireland 0.4%.
There are 13 urban areas which exceed 500,000 inhabitants, these being centred on London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford, Southampton and Portsmouth, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester, Belfast, Bristol, Newcastle upon Tyne and Nottingham.
The key features of the age distribution profile for the UK population, as measured in the 2011 Census, were summarised in December 2012 by the Office for National Statistics in terms of peaks and wide bands of the pyramid reflecting high numbers of births in previous years particularly for people aged 60–64 born following the Second World War and those aged 40–49, born during the 1960s baby boom. There is a smaller number of children aged five to nine years than ten years ago which is a consequence of low numbers of births at the beginning of the 21st century, and the broadening of the pyramid in the 0–4 years category is due to a higher numbers of births in recent years. At higher ages, females outnumber males, reflecting the higher life expectancy of females. At lower ages there are more males than females, reflecting that there are slightly more boys than girls born each year.
The UK Office for National Statistics' 2012-based National Population Projections suggest that the average (median) population age would rise from 39.7 in 2012 to 42.8 in 2037 if current demographic trends continued. More recent estimates for mid-2014 suggest the median age of the UK population was at its highest ever at 40 years.
Age structure for each five year band
|Population||% of total|
- Source: 2011 Census: Usual resident population by five-year age group and sex, local authorities in the United Kingdom, Accessed 23 December 2012
Age structure for men and women in 2011
- Source: Table 1 2011 Census: Usual resident population by five-year age group and sex, United Kingdom and constituent countries, Accessed 20 December 2012
UK population change over time
Population levels at census dates
at start of period
|Average annual change||Average annual births||Average annual deaths||Average annual natural change||Average annual net migration
and other changes[which?]
at start of period
|1901 – 1911||38,237,000||385,000||1,091,000||624,000||467,000||-82,000||156/km²|
|1911 – 1921||42,082,000||195,000||975,000||689,000||286,000||-92,000||172/km²|
|1921 – 1931||44,027,000||201,000||824,000||555,000||268,000||-67,000||180/km²|
|1931 – 1951||46,038,000||213,000||793,000||603,000||190,000||22,000||188/km²|
|1951 – 1961||50,225,000||258,000||839,000||593,000||246,000||12,000||205/km²|
|1961 – 1971||52,807,000||312,000||962,000||638,000||324,000||-12,000||216/km²|
|1971 – 1981||55,928,000||42,000||736,000||666,000||69,000||-27,000||229/km²|
|1981 – 1991||56,357,000||108,000||757,000||655,000||103,000||5,000||231/km²|
|1991 – 2001||57,439,000||161,000||731,000||631,000||100,000||61,000||235/km²|
|2001 – 2011||59,113,000||324,000||722,000||588,000||134,000||191,000||242/km²|
|2011 – 2021||63,182,000||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||259/km²|
Population density based on a calculated 243,820 km² area of the United Kingdom
Vital statistics since 1960
|Average population (in thousands)||Live births||Deaths||Natural change||Crude birth rate (per 1,000)||Crude death rate (per 1,000)||Natural change (per 1,000)||Fertility rates||Population density|
Population density based on a calculated 243,820 km² area of the United Kingdom.
Current vital statistics
- Live births from January to December 2012 = 812,970
- Live births from January to December 2013 = 778,805
- Total deaths from January to March 2012 = 153,800
- Total deaths from January to March 2013 = 160,900
In 2012 the UK's total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.92 children per woman, below the replacement rate, which in the UK is 2.075. In 2001, the TFR was at a record low of 1.63, but it then increased every year till reaching a peak of 1.96 in 2008, before decreasing again. The TFR was considerably higher during the 1960s 'baby boom', peaking at 2.95 children per woman in 1964. In 2012 and 2013, England and Wales's TFR decreased to 1.85. In Scotland however TFR is lower: it decreased from 1.75 in 2010 to 1.67 in 2012. Northern Ireland has the highest TFR in the UK, standing at 2.02 in 2010 and 2.03 in 2012.
In 2014, 27% of births were to mothers born outside the UK, a 0.5 point increase since 2013. The 2014 fertility rate was higher for foreign born mothers (2.09) than UK-born mothers (1.76). In the 2010-14 time period, the most common country of births for mothers (excluding the UK) was Pakistan and India; and Poland and India for fathers. Within the UK, Newham, London had the highest rate of births to non-UK mothers (76.7%) and Torfaen, Wales the lowest (3.2%).
There are known difficulties in producing reliable estimates of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
The Integrated Household Survey, published by the Office for National Statistics, provides the following estimates for the adult UK population as at 2011:
- 1.1 per cent (approximately 545,000 adults at the time of the survey) identify as Gay or Lesbian,
- 0.4 per cent (approximately 220,000 adults) identify as Bisexual,
- 0.3 per cent identify as ‘Other’,
- 3.6 per cent of those surveyed replied ‘Don’t know’ or refused to answer the question,
- 0.6 per cent of those surveyed provided ‘No response’ to the question.
- an estimated 2.7 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK identify themselves as Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual compared with 0.4 per cent of 65 year olds and over.
Other sources provide alternative estimates of the population by sexual orientation.
One British journal published in 2004 estimated that approximately 5% of the British population is gay. A government figure estimated in 2005 that there are 3.6 million gay people in Britain comprising 6 percent of the population., though a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission  described that estimate as 'of questionable validity' when set against available survey estimates.
The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) estimated in 2009 that "56,000 might potentially be transsexual people". They note that it's very difficult to make a reliable estimate. This would be 0.09% of the population at the time.
Below are the 20 largest immigrant groups in the UK according to the 2011 census.
|Country of birth||Immigrants in the UK (2011 Census)|
Census estimate for the main ethnic group categories
|White: Irish Traveller||63,193||0.10%|
|Asian or Asian British: Total||2,578,826||4.39%||4,373,339||
|Asian or Asian British: Indian||1,053,411||1.79%||1,451,862||
|Asian or Asian British: Pakistani||747,285||1.27%||1,173,892||
|Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi||283,063||0.48%||451,529||
|Asian or Asian British: Chinese[note 1]||247,403||0.42%||433,150||
|Asian or Asian British: Asian Other||247,664||0.42%||861,815||
|Black or Black British[note 2]||1,148,738||1.95%||1,904,684||
- In 2001, listed under the "Other ethnic group" heading.
- For the purpose of harmonising results to make them comparable across the UK, the ONS includes individuals in Scotland who classified themselves in the "African" category (29,638 people), which in the Scottish version of the census is separate from "Caribbean or Black" (6,540 people), in this grouping. The ONS note that "the African categories used in Scotland could potentially capture White/Asian/Other African in addition to Black identities".
The British Social Attitudes Survey found in 2012 that the non-religious outnumbered Christians (48% vs 46%). Six percent identified as something else. Discrepancies found between surveys may be the result of differences in phrasing, question order, and data collection method.
In a YouGov poll 2011 35% of the total respondents were either very or fairly religious vs 63% who were not very religious or not religious at all, with the remaining 2% unsure.
The traditional religion in the United Kingdom is Christianity. In England the established church is the Church of England (Anglican). In Scotland, the Church of Scotland (a Presbyterian Church) is regarded as the 'national church' but there is not an established church.
In Wales there is no established church, with the Church in Wales having been disestablished in 1920. Likewise, in Ireland the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1871. In Northern Ireland and similarly in parts of Scotland, there is a sectarian divide between Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.
The table below shows data regarding religion for the 2001 and 2011 censuses:
|Religion not stated||4,528,323||7.17%|
|(No religion and Religion not stated)||13,626,299||23.18%||20,749,832||32.84%|
These figures represent a decrease of 11% in the number of people identifying themselves as Christian in the 10-year period from 2001 to 2011, and an increase of 52% in the number of people stating that they have no religion.
In the 2011 Census, rather than select one of the specified religions offered on the Census form, many people chose to write in their own religion. Some of these religions were reassigned to one of the main religions offered. In England and Wales, 241,000 people belonged to religious groups which did not fall into any of the main religions. The largest of these were Pagans (57,000) and Spiritualists (39,000). The census also recorded 177,000 people stating their religion as Jedi Knight. These returns were classified as "No religion", along with Atheist, Agnostic, Heathen and those who ticked "Other" but did not write in any religion.
The United Kingdom's de facto official language is English which is spoken as a first language by 95% of the population. Six regional languages; Scots, Ulster-Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Irish and Scottish Gaelic are protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Abilities in these languages (other than Cornish) for those aged three and above were recorded in the UK census 2011 as follows.
|Understands but does not speak, read or write||157,792||5.15%||23,357||0.46%||267,412||5.22%||70,501||4.06%||92,040||5.30%|
|Speaks, reads and writes||430,717||14.06%||32,191||0.63%||1,225,622||23.95%||71,996||4.15%||17,228||0.99%|
|Speaks but does not read or write||80,429||2.63%||18,966||0.37%||179,295||3.50%||24,677||1.42%||10,265||0.59%|
|Speaks and reads but does not write||45,524||1.49%||6,218||0.12%||132,709||2.59%||7,414||0.43%||7,801||0.45%|
|Reads but does not speak or write||44,327||1.45%||4,646||0.09%||107,025||2.09%||5,659||0.33%||11,911||0.69%|
|Other combination of skills||40,692||1.33%||1,678||0.03%||17,381||0.34%||4,651||0.27%||959||0.06%|
|Has some ability||799,481||26.10%||87,056||1.70%||1,929,444||37.70%||184,898||10.65%||140,204||8.08%|
Cornish is spoken by around 2,500 people. In the 2011 census 464 respondents aged three and over in Cornwall said that Cornish was their main language, amounting to 0.09% of the total population of Cornwall aged three and over.
|Distribution of those who stated they could speak a regional language in the 2011 census.|
After English, Polish was the second most common language given in the United Kingdom census 2011. 618,091 respondents aged three and over said that Polish was their main language, amounting to 1.01% of the total population of the United Kingdom aged three and over.
The French language is spoken in some parts of the Channel Islands although the islands, like the Isle of Man, are not part of the United Kingdom. British Sign Language is also common.
|National identity||United Kingdom||Country|
|Northern Irish only||0.81%||0.21%||0.33%||0.14%||20.94%|
|English and British only||7.82%||9.09%||1.26%||1.54%||0.27%|
|Scottish and British only||1.67%||0.15%||18.29%||0.07%||0.09%|
|Welsh and British only||0.44%||0.11%||0.06%||7.11%||0.02%|
|Northern Irish and British only||0.22%||0.03%||0.15%||0.02%||6.17%|
|Other combination of UK identities only (excludes Irish)||0.45%||0.37%||1.01%||1.10%||0.13%|
|Other identity and at least one UK identity||0.97%||0.90%||1.25%||0.43%||3.05%|
Each country of the United Kingdom has a separate education system, with power over education matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being devolved.
The Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills are responsible to the UK Parliament for education in England. Depending on the status of state schools control of day-to-day administration and funding may either be the responsibility of the local education authorities or the school's own governing institution. Universal state education in England and Wales was introduced for primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Despite a fall in actual numbers, the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%.
Just over half of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to the most selective private schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. England has 4 Universities ranked amongst the top 10 in the 2011 THES - QS World University Rankings.
In Scotland, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for education, with day-to-day administration and funding of state schools being the responsibility of Local Authorities. Scotland first legislated for universal provision of education in 1696. The proportion of children in Scotland attending private schools is just over 4% though it has been rising slowly in recent years. Scottish students who attend Scottish universities pay neither tuition fees nor graduate endowment charges as the fees were abolished in 2001 and the graduate endowment scheme was abolished in 2008.
The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of students in Wales are educated either wholly or largely through the medium of Welsh and lessons in the language are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh-medium schools as part of the policy of having a fully bilingual Wales.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is responsible for education in Northern Ireland though responsibility at a local level is administered by 5 Education and Library Boards covering different geographical areas.
- Demography of England
- Demography of Scotland
- Demography of Wales
- Demography of Northern Ireland
- Demography of London
- Demography of Birmingham
- Demography of Greater Manchester
- City status in the United Kingdom
- List of cities in the United Kingdom
- List of renewable resources produced and traded by the United Kingdom
- List of urban areas in the United Kingdom
- Lists of UK locations with large ethnic minority populations
- Genetic history of Britain
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