Migration to boost UK population by seven million by 2036

Projections come as pressure mounts on Rishi Sunak’s government to curb migration rates

It is estimated that 13.7 million people will move long-term to the UK by 2036, while 7.6 million will emigrate. Getty Images
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The UK population could increase by about seven million by 2036, as the number of migrants entering Britain rises, figures published on Tuesday showed.

It means the country's population is set to hit 73.7 million by 2036, up from 67 million in 2021, an increase of about 10 per cent.

The data, published by the Office for National Statistics, assumes a long-term net international migration level of 315,000 a year from mid-2028 onwards.

The projections were announced as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government faces pressure to curb migration to the UK. His government pledged to "stop the boats", referring to migrants who try to illegally reach Britain by crossing the Channel.

“Future migration will be affected by policy changes, as well as the impact of as yet unknown migrant behavioural patterns in the future," said James Robards, ONS head of population and household projections. “Put simply, if migration comes down, so will future projections.”

The population of the UK is projected to grow from an estimated 67 million, recorded in mid-2021, to 73.7 million by mid-2036, an increase of about 6.6 million.

Over this period, it is projected that 10.8 million will be born, 10.3 million will die, 13.7 million will move to the UK long-term and 7.6 million people will emigrate.

This means that of the projected 6.6 million increase, 500,000 would come from a higher number of births than deaths, while 6.1 million would result from net international migration.

“Expert views and the latest data covering the last 10 years has led us to develop a long-term net migration assumption of 315,000 each year from year, ending mid-2028 onwards,” Mr Robards said. “It is important to recognise that there is uncertainty in the provisional international migration estimates.

“If net international migration were to be, say, 20 per cent higher than our long-term assumption, then it would be 379,000 per year. If it were to be 20 per cent lower than our assumption, then it would be 253,000 per year."

The projections also suggest there would be one million more people aged 85 and over in the UK in the next 15 years.

Mr Sunak is under pressure to reduce the level of legal migration, which has long dominated Britain's political landscape and will be a major issue in a general election expected this year.

His government last month announced stricter visa measures, including higher salary thresholds and restrictions on some migrants bringing in family. He has been under pressure from MPs in his Conservative Party to take action after revised official estimates in November indicated that net migration – the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country – reached a record 745,000 in 2022, higher than previously thought.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 1:43 PM