Britain’s continued population growth is affecting current living standards.
Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, commented, “Economic growth does not improve living standards if the benefit has to be spread across ever more people and if rising demand increases the cost of living. We would all be better off with a stable or falling population. We call on the government to acknowledge this and make smaller families and balanced migration explicit goals.”
UK population growth
From today’s press release by the Office for National Statistics:
“The population of the UK grew to 64.1 million in mid-2013, representing a gain of 400,600 (0.63%) over the previous year mid-2012. This growth is slightly below the average since 2003. This means that the UK’s population has increased by around 5 million since 2001, and by more than 10 million since 1964.
Natural change (births minus deaths) contributed slightly more than net international migration did to the population gain that occurred in the year.
There were 212,100 more births than deaths (53% of the increase) and 183,400 more immigrants arriving than emigrants leaving (46% of the increase).
The estimated populations of the four constituent countries of the UK in mid-2013 are 53.9 million (growth of 0.70%) in England, 5.3 million (growth of 0.27%) in Scotland, 3.1 million (growth of 0.27%) in Wales and 1.8 million (growth of 0.33%) in Northern Ireland.
There were 792,400 births and 580,300 deaths in the year ending 30 June 2013. The number of births decreased from the previous year but is still above average for the last decade. The number of deaths increased from the previous year and is the highest since the year to mid-2005.
The population of the UK aged 65 and over was 11.1 million (17.4% of the UK population) in mid-2013, up by 290,800 from mid-2012. The number of people in this age group has increased by 17.3% since 2003.
Growth of the UK population in the year to mid-2013 was higher than the EU average and highest of the four most populous EU member states.”
This growth is broadly in line with official projections that the UK population is projected to increase by 4.3 million from an estimated 63.7 million in 2012 to 68 million by 2022; to 70 million by 2027; and to 73.3 million over the 25-year period to 2037.
Current living standards
Population growth is driving up the UK cost of living, particularly in already densely populated London and the South East. Housing, utility and transport costs are rising faster than wages as demand increases faster than supply or necessitates costly infrastructure investments. Food prices are also rising, reflecting increasing demand worldwide — this will be a long term trend.
Population growth is also affecting future sustainability. A report released this week by the University of Cambridge found that Britain is running out of land for growing food and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by 2030. Even at our current population, the UK already runs a food, feed and drink trade deficit of £18.6bn. Other emerging issues are energy and food security, carbon emissions and increased flooding.
The government can and should promote a fall in average family size, which is high by European standards. The government should:
- make sex and relationship education statutory and invest in training teachers in the subject;
- work with local authorities and health providers to improve family planning advice and support and reduce unplanned pregnancies;
- promote the benefits to society of smaller families; and
- introduce for future births a limiting of child-related payments to two children per household except in cases of proven need.
The government should also further limit net migration and continue to improve enforcement of immigration laws.