New figures confirm population growth in Wales is lowest of UK nations
Wales had the lowest population growth of all four UK nations in the decade to 2021, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The population in Wales is estimated to have grown at just 1.4%, down sharply from 5.3% in the previous decade, while Scotland’s population grew by 3.4%, down from 4.7%.
England saw the highest level of growth, with its population increasing by 6.5%, though this was down from 7.4% over the previous 10 years.
Northern Ireland also saw slower growth of 3.4%, down from 4.7%.
Overall, the UK population is estimated to have grown by 5.9% in the decade to June 2021, up 3.7 million to a total of 67.0 million.
This compares with growth of 7.1% in the decade to mid-2011.
The figures published by the ONS are based on the 2021 censuses for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with separate estimates for Scotland, where the census was delayed to 2022.
The figures also confirm the continuation of a long-term shift towards an older population, with the median age in June 2021 across the UK estimated at 40.7 years, up from 39.6 in June 2011.
Wales had the highest median age in mid-2021 at 43.1 years, up from 41.5 in mid-2011, followed by Scotland at 42.2 years (up from 41.3), England at 40.5 years (up from 39.4) and Northern Ireland at 39.8 years (up from 37.4 – the highest increase).
The ONS said it was not possible to make direct year-on-year comparisons between the new population estimates for June 2021 and those for June 2020.
This is because the figures have been compiled in different ways, with the mid-2020 estimates based on data rolled forward from the 2011 census, while the mid-2021 estimates use the 2021 census.
It is the first time an official estimate has been published for the entire UK population using the latest census data – though the figures will be revised once census information for Scotland becomes available.
The UK population had been increasing at a steadily faster rate in recent decades, with growth of 0.8% in the 10 years to 1981 followed by 1.9% in the 10 years to 1991, then 2.9% to 2001 and 7.1% to 2011.
The latest estimates suggest this pattern has come to a halt, though it is too soon to know if this is a one-off slowdown in growth or the start of a new trend.
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