population trends

How is the UK Population Changing?

Written by: | Posted on: | Category:

Population Changes in the UK and it's Implications for Conducting Market Research

As the world we live in continues to evolve, so does its population. The United Kingdom is no exception to this trend. From demographic shifts and technological advancements to social movements and political changes, there are a lot of factors that affect the UK's population makeup. In this blog post, we'll explore how the UK population is changing and what these changes mean for our society as a whole. Changes in population is a crucial consideration when conducting market research, particularly in respect of ensuring surveys are properly representative of the population.

This blog concerns itself with four trends in the UK population:

  • increasing and ageing
  • ethnic diversity
  • urbanisation
  • education

The UK population is increasing and ageing

The UK population is increasing. The population of England and Wales has grown by more than 3.5 million (6.3%) in 10 years, from 56.1 to 59.6 million, the 2021 census data reveals. According to the ONS the main driver of population growth since the 1990s has been immigration.

But the UK population is also ageing. The proportion of people aged 65 and over has increased from 16% in 1971 to 18% in 2016. The number of people aged 85 and over has more than doubled since 1980, reaching 1.6 million in 2016. By 2041, it is projected that one in four people will be aged 65 and over.

The ageing of the population has implications for society and the economy. An ageing population may put pressure on health and social care services as the number of people with age-related health conditions is expected to increase. There may also be implications for pension provision and housing demand as the number of retirees increases.

From a market research sampling point of view, our samples need to reflect that ageing population. As the Internet has become widely used among all ages, including older people, it is a manageable practical issue. The chart below compiled by Statista using interim data from the latest census, illustrates just how much the population has changed in the 10 years between 2011 and 2021.

The UK population is becoming more ethnically diverse

The UK population is becoming more ethnically diverse as the number of people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds continues to grow. This is due to a number of factors, including immigration, higher birth rates among minority groups and an ageing population.

In 2011, there were 9.3 million people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds living in the UK – this was up from 6.6 million in 2001. The majority of this growth was in the black and Asian populations, which increased by 3.1 million and 2.5 million respectively over the ten-year period. The white population also grew slightly, from 44.9 million in 2001 to 45.6 million in 2011.

This increase in diversity is set to continue in the future as minority groups are projected to make up a larger share of the UK population. By 2051, it is estimated that one in four people living in the UK will be from a black or Asian background. This increase will be driven by a number of factors, including immigration, higher birth rates among minority groups and an ageing population.

The UK population is becoming more urbanised

The UK population is becoming more urbanised. In 2012, 83% of the population lived in urban areas, up from 79% in 1991. This trend is set to continue, with the proportion of people living in rural areas projected to fall to just over 60% by 2037. There are a number of reasons for this shift, including economic and social factors.

One of the main reasons for the increasing urbanisation of the UK population is economic. Cities offer greater opportunities for employment, education and leisure than rural areas. This is particularly true in our increasingly globalised economy, where businesses are concentrated in cities and many jobs require skills that are only found in urban environments.

There are also social factors that contribute to urbanisation. As cities become more attractive places to live, people are moving from rural areas in search of a better quality of life. This includes access to better healthcare, schools and other amenities. Urbanisation can also lead to increased social interaction and a sense of community that is often lacking in rural areas.

The UK population is becoming better educated

The UK's population is becoming increasingly better educated, with more people than ever before achieving high levels of education. This is having a positive impact on the economy and society as a whole, as educated people are more likely to be in employment and to earn higher salaries.

There are a number of reasons for this increase in educational attainment. Firstly, the education system has improved significantly over recent years, meaning that more children are able to access good quality education. Secondly, there has been an increase in the number of adults returning to education later in life. This is often motivated by a desire to improve their job prospects or earnings potential.

Whatever the reasons for it, the fact that the UK population is becoming better educated is positive news for the country as a whole. It is clear that education brings many benefits, both for individuals and for society as a whole.

How these changes will impact the economy

There are a number of ways in which the changes to the UK population will impact the economy. One is through the labour market. An ageing population is likely to mean fewer people of working age, and this could lead to skills shortages and higher wage costs. There could also be an impact on productivity, as older workers are often less productive than younger ones.

Another way in which the changing population will impact the economy is through consumption. An ageing population is likely to mean less spending on some items (such as children's products) and more spending on others (such as health care). This could have an effect on aggregate demand and inflation.

Finally, the changing demographics of the UK population will have an impact on public finances. An ageing population will put more strain on state pensions and healthcare provision, while a declining birth rate will mean fewer people contributing to these programmes in future years. This could lead to higher taxes or cuts in other areas of government spending in order to meet the extra costs.


In conclusion, it is clear that the UK population is changing in a number of ways. We have seen an increase in birth and death rates as well as substantial changes to immigration patterns, levels of education and employment opportunities. These shifting demographics are having an impact on our society, culture and economy and need to be taken into account when planning for the future. The practice of market research is of course also impacted by demographic change. On one level, being aware of demographic change will influence how market characteristics and trends are interpreted, but more directly, it shapes how we conduct surveys. The accuracy and reliability of consumer and public opinion surveys depends on ensuring we properly consider the demographic shape and structure when sampling the population.

We have a separate but related blog on population and weighting survey data in the Articles and Guides section.

Ready to grow your company? Get in touch today!


Sign-up for latest news, case studies and offers.

Please provide you both your first and last name

Copyright @2023 Surveygoo.