The UK is facing a population decline

By Marica Micallef

We come across various publications debating how the world population will vary in a decade or more, according to various statistics.

According to a January 2022 article by the Financial Times, the natural population of the UK is set to start to decline by 2025, [by 2025 or before?] since ONS (Office for National Statistics) has forecasted that “deaths will surpass births two decades earlier than the expected marking demographic shift.”[1] The ONS has blamed these statistics on the fact that the UK has a faster-aging population with less birth rates, which means that more people will die than are born annually. In the terms used by the media portal, this marks “a long-term reversal of a historic trend”.

Since the figures also showed that the UK population was aging faster than expected, concerns were raised about the rising cost of elderly care, pensions, and health care to the state.

Previous projections based on 2018 data predicted that deaths would outnumber births until 2043.

According to the ONS, while the population will grow by 3.2% over the next decade, this will be due to a net 2.2 million people immigrating to the UK. According to its projections, which are based on assumptions about fertility, mortality, and migration, the total population, including migrants, would begin to decline in 2058.

Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford university’s Migration Observatory, said “It looks like net migration will help the UK avert population decline — which is something that is very difficult for governments to manage.

But she added that net migration was not necessarily “a wonderful solution” to the aging population in the long run since it “mitigates the pressures of ageing rather than solving them”.

Among the issues that the British government must address in light of the shift is whether to fund additional state spending on older people through income tax increases or other means such as levies on rent, capital, or pensions.

Alistair McQueen, Aviva’s head of savings and retirement said that the state will face a rising bill for healthcare, social care, and pensions, and thus individual responsibility for providing for a longer, later life will increase.

The National Post[2] has also joined the forecast, stating that according to a study published in the Lancet journal, the world population forecast is set to decline for the first time in centuries, and that “the last time that global population decline was in the mid-14th century, due to the Black Plague.” The reasons repeated for this decline were low birth rates and an aging population.

Stein Emil Vollset, the study’s lead author and Professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), elaborated on the findings with IFLScience, stating:

 “If our forecast is correct, it will be the first time population decline is driven by fertility decline, as opposed to events such as a pandemic or famine.



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