The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the first results from Census 2021 in England and Wales on Tuesday 28 June, providing an initial snapshot of who we are and where we live across two of the four nations of the UK. It follows on from the initial release earlier this year of the Northern Ireland Census 2021, but we won’t see a full picture for the UK for some time as the 2022 census in Scotland was delayed until this year.
The chart highlights how the East of England was the fastest growing region in England, with its population growing by 8.3% to 6.3m between 2011 and 2021. This was followed by the South West (up 7.8% to 5.7m), London (up 7.7% to 8.8m), East Midlands (up 7.7% to 4.9m) and the South East (up 7.5% to 9.3m). The West Midlands grew less quickly (up 6.2% to 6.0m), but still by more than the North West (up 5.2% to 7.4m), Yorkshire (up 3.7% to 5.5m) and the North East (up 1.9% to 2.6m). The population of Wales only increased by 1.4% over 10 years to remain at 3.1m.
In total the population of England and Wales amounted to 59.6m in 2021. This was 6.3% higher than the 56.1m people living in the UK in 2011 and 14.6% higher than the 52.0m reported by the 2001 census. This reflects a slowing rate of growth in the last decade at 0.6% a year on average compared with the average rate of 0.8% seen between 2001 and 2011 and is substantially lower than the compound growth of 1.6% a year experienced over 120 years since the first official census in 1801 reported a population of 8.9m in England & Wales.
The ONS has published a breakdown of the population by age and sex by local authority, highlighting how the number of people has changed significantly in some parts of the country, such as Tower Hamlets (up 22% in 10 years), Dartford (up 20%), Barking and Dagenham (up 18%), Bedford (up 18%), Peterborough (up 17.5%), Central Bedfordshire and Tewkesbury (each up 16%) and Salford, Milton Keynes, Uttlesford, Vale of White Horse and Wokingham (each up by around 15%). The biggest falls were in Kensington and Chelsea (down 10%) and Westminster (down 7%), although there is some speculation that this was because of the pandemic as family and second homes elsewhere proved to be more attractive places to work from home during lockdown. This is unlikely to be the driver of decreases in some rural areas such as the 6% fall in Ceredigion in Wales or the 5% fall in Copeland in Cumbria, where long-term trends of population decline have continued.
The census has also confirmed how we are getting older on average, with a 20% increase in those aged 65 and over from 9.2m in 2011 to 11.1m in 2021. This continues to be a big driver for public finances, as more funding is needed to pay for pensions, health and social care at the expense of other public services.
There is still a lot of data crunching to do as the statisticians work through the more in-depth questions on the census, ranging from employment status, education and housing to ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity among other characteristics – demographics in action and the likely source of future charts of the week.
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