Britain ‘older than ever’ as proportion of over-65s grows by two percentage points

The UK’s population is the largest it has ever been, new census data revealed, with growth fuelled by millions more older people living longer.

The population of England and Wales grew by more than 3.5 million (6.3 per cent) since the last census in 2011, when it was 56,075,912.

There were more people than ever before in the older age groups; the proportion of the population who were aged 65 years and over was 18.6 per cent (16.4 per cent in 2011).

However, the data signals a slowdown in population growth over the last 10 years, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The previous census in 2011 showed the number of people living in England and Wales rose by a record 7.1 per cent in a decade.

More than 20 million households across England and Wales filled in census questionnaires in spring last year, with a record 89 per cent of responses completed online.

The ONS has today published its first tranche of data relating to the Census 2021 in England and Wales.

In the Autumn, the ONS will publish further figures relating to other aspects of the UK population, such as faith and sexuality.

The results from today’s repopulation and household estimates from the decennial survey will guide the future planning of local and national services.

It focuses on the rounded estimates of the numbers of people and households resident in England and Wales in March 2021 and will provide information on:

  • population size and change
  • the age and sex of the population
  • how densely areas were populated
  • how many households there were in 2021

More than 20 million households across England and Wales completed their questionnaires in spring last year, and the results have been transformed into statistics for every local area.

Jen Woolford, Director of Health, Population and Methods Transformation at the ONS, said: “The first census estimates are hugely important as they underpin everything from the calculation of GDP, employment, wellbeing and, (now), COVID rates.

“They will be essential to our long-term understanding of the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

“But they are, in fact, just the start of a programme  which will continue from the autumn for the next two years. These will include data on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing.

“For the first time, they will also include information on UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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