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Census 2021: Population of England and Wales grew 6% in a decade

census population growth England Wales

The first set of data from the 2021 Census was published today with surprising results for politicians in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19.

The 2021 survey was carried out on 21 March last year and came against the backdrop of Brexit – which saw restrictions on immigration – and the pandemic.

The census showed the usual resident population of England and Wales was 59,597,300 on Census Day, 21 March 2021.

This was the largest population ever recorded through a census in England and Wales – an increase of more than 3.5 million (6.3%) compared with Census Day 2011.

An ageing population

The population is also ageing, with 18.6% of people aged 65 years and over, up from 16.4% a decade earlier.

There were 56,489,800 people in England and 3,107,500 people in Wales. In England, the population grew by almost 3.5 million (6.6%) from the 2011 Census population estimate of 53,012,456 people. The rate of growth was considerably lower in Wales, where the population grew by 44,000 (1.4%) from the 2011 Census population estimate of 3,063,456 people.

Commenting on the numbers, the Office for National Statistics’ Deputy National Statistician Pete Benton said: “Today’s census statistics begin to paint a rich and detailed snapshot of the nation and how we were living during the pandemic. They show the population of England and Wales continued to grow across the decade, albeit at different rates across the regions.

“Ultimately, the full suite of census results, based on the information we all gave, will ensure decisions about how the billions of pounds we spend each year as a nation are made using the best possible evidence. This includes planning our emergency services, mental health care, school places, hospital beds, houses, roads, buses, trains, trams, GPs and dentists’ services.”

Benton added: “Since Census Day the world has continued to change. People continue to move home, some people will have left the country, others will have arrived. People will have changed jobs, some of us now work in offices once again, while others continue to work from home.

“We need to understand all of this and more. The results from Census 2021 – and there is lots more to follow – therefore provide a key bridge from the past to the future as we deliver more frequent, relevant and timely statistics using data from across government to allow us to understand population change in local areas this year and beyond.”

The first Census 2021 estimates show the region with the highest population growth was the East of England, which increased by 8.3% from 2011 (a gain of approximately 488,000 people). The South West and London were the areas with the next highest rates of population growth.

Other important findings

  • There were 30,420,100 women (51.0% of the overall population) and 29,177,200 men (49.0%) in England and Wales.
  • Across England and Wales, the local authorities with the highest percentages of the population aged 65 years and over were North Norfolk (33.4%) and Rother (32.4%). East Devon had the highest percentage of the population aged 90 years and over (1.9%), followed by Rother (1.8%).
  • Compared with the other English regions, London had the largest percentage of people aged between 15 and 64 years (70.0%).
  • The local authorities with the highest percentage of persons aged under 15 years were Barking and Dagenham (24.5%), Slough (23.5%) and Luton (21.9%).
  • There were 24,782,800 households in England and Wales on Census Day; the number of households increased by more than 1.4 million since 2011 (6.1%), when there were 23,366,044 households.
  • There were 395 residents per square kilometre in England and Wales in 2021. This is about the same as 2.8 residents per football pitch-sized area of land. It compares with 371 residents per square kilometre in 2011 and 251 residents per square kilometre a century ago in 1921.
Census
The 2021 census found that Barking and Dagenham was the local authority area with the highest percentage of persons aged under 15 years (24.5%)

These population and household population figures are the first in a series of Census 2021 data being released over the next two years. From October, until the end of the year, initial topic summary reports including demography, migration, ethnicity, religion, UK armed forces veterans, education, health, the labour market, sexual orientation and gender identity will be released. More information can be found in our Census 2021 release plans.

Find out more

Find out more about how the population has changed in different local authority areas and how they compare with others across England and Wales in this interactive article, How the population changed where you live: Census 2021.

Final thought

For a government that was elected to “take back control” of our borders, today’s census will make difficult reading for the Government. Population and the pressures on public services and infrastructure are clearly growing.

Brexit promised to take more control of the UK borders, and the census today has proven that this has failed. What is the next move for the Government?

This will place additional pressure on the Government to enact it’s levelling up agenda and tackle migration. There is a balance to be struck, however this government has traditionally struck a more hard-line tone and today’s census publication will provide further ammunition for tougher measures.

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