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A Census occurs simultaneously in all parts of the UK every ten years.[88] The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting data for England and Wales with the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency each being responsible for censuses in their respective countries.[89]


At the most recent census in 2001, the total population of the United Kingdom was 58,789,194, the third largest in the European Union (after Germany and France), the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. By mid-2007, this was estimated to have grown to 60,975,000.[90] Current population growth is mainly due to net immigration but a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy have also contributed.[91] The mid-2007 population estimates also revealed that, for the first time, the UK is now home to more people of pensionable age than children under the age of 16.[92]

England's population by mid-2007 was estimated to be 51.1 million.[93] It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 383 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2003,[94] with a particular concentration in London and the South East. The mid-2007 estimates put Scotland's population at 5.1 milion, Wales at 3 million and Northern Ireland at 1.8 million[93] with much lower population densities than England. Compared to England's 383 inhabitants per square kilometre (990 /sq mi), the corresponding figures were 142 /km² (370 /sq mi) for Wales, 125 /km² (320 /sq mi) for Northern Ireland and just 65 /km² (170 /sq mi) for Scotland in mid-2003.[94]

In 2007, the average total fertility rate (TFR) across the UK was 1.90 children per woman.[95] It is estimated that in 2008, the fertility of the United Kingdom climbed to 1.91 children per woman.[96] While a rising birth rate is contributing to current population growth, it remains below the replacement rate of 2.1 but higher than the 2001 record low of 1.63.[95] England and Wales have birth rates of 1.92 and 1.90 respectively. Scotland had the lowest fertility at only 1.73 children per woman, while Northern Ireland had the highest at 2.02 children.[95] The UK's TFR was considerably higher during the 1960s 'baby boom', peaking at 2.95 children per woman in 1964.[95] The birth rate is higher amongst foreign-born women than UK-born women, although it is only the latter which is rising.[95]


Citizens of European Union have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom[97] though transitional arrangements apply to Romanians and Bulgarians whose countries joined the EU in January 2007.[98]

In contrast with some other European countries, high foreign-born immigration is contributing to a rising population,[99] accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. Official figures showed that 2.3 million net migrants[100] have moved to Britain since 1997,[101] 84% of them from outside Europe,[102] and a further 7 million are expected by 2031.[103]

The latest official figures (2006) show net immigration to the UK of 191,000 (591,000 immigrants and 400,000 emigrants) up from 185,000 in 2005 (overall, there was a loss of 126,000 Britons and a gain of 316,000 foreign citizens).[104][105][106] One in six were from Eastern European countries, with larger numbers coming from New Commonwealth countries.[107] Immigration from the Indian subcontinent, mainly fuelled by family reunion, accounted for two-thirds of net immigration.[108] By contrast, at least 5.5 million British-born people are living abroad,[109][110][111] the most popular emigrant destinations being Australia, Spain, France, New Zealand and the United States.[112][113]

A study by a city forecaster, however, contends that the above immigration figures are unreliable and that net immigration for 2005 was circa 400,000.[114] Nonetheless, the proportion of foreign-born people in the UK population remains slightly below that of some other European countries.[115] Britain's immigrant population will almost double in the next two decades to 9.1 million, a report said on 31 January 2008.[116]

In 2004, the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups are people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.[117] In 2006, there were 149,035 applications for British citizenship, 32% fewer than in 2005. The number of people granted citizenship during 2006 was 154,095, 5% fewer than in 2005. The largest groups of people granted British citizenship were from India, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines.[118] 21.9% of babies born in England and Wales in 2006 were born to mothers who were born outside the UK, (146,956 out of 669,601), according to official statistics released in 2007 that also show the highest birth rates for 26 years.[119]

Figures published in August 2007 indicated that 682,940 people applied to the Worker Registration Scheme (for nationals of the central and eastern European states that joined the EU in May 2004) between 1 May 2004 and 30 June 2007, of whom 656,395 were accepted.[120] Self-employed workers and people who are not working (including students) are not required to register under the scheme so this figure represents a lower limit on immigration inflow. These figures do not indicate the number of immigrants who have since returned home, but 56% of applicants in the 12 months ending 30 June 2007 reported planning to stay for a maximum of three months, with net migration in 2005 from the new EU states standing at 64,000.[105] Research suggests that a total of around 1 million people had moved from the new EU member states to the UK by April 2008, but that half this number have since returned home or moved on to a third country.[121][122] One in every four Poles in the UK planned to remain for life, a survey has revealed.[123] The 2008 economic crisis in the UK and the growing economy in Poland reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK.[124]

National Insurance data suggests that 2.5 million foreign workers moved to the UK to work (including those moving for short periods), the majority from EU countries, between 2002 and 2007.[125]

The UK government is currently introducing a points-based immigration system for immigration from outside of the European Economic Area that will replace existing schemes, including the Scottish Government's Fresh Talent Initiative.

Ethnic groups

The present day population of the UK is descended from varied ethnic stocks, mainly pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. Since 1945, substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups, but, as of 2008, the trend is reversing and many of these migrants are returning home, leaving the size of these groups unknown.[126] As of 2001, 92.1% of the population identified themselves as White, leaving 7.9%[127] of the UK population identifying themselves as mixed race or ethnic minority.

Ethnic group  ↓ Population  ↓  % of total*  ↓
White &0000000054153898.00000054,153,898 92.1%
Black &0000000001148738.0000001,148,738 2.0%
Mixed race &0000000000677117.000000677,117 1.2%
Indian &0000000001053411.0000001,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani &0000000000747285.000000747,285 1.3%
Bangladeshi &0000000000283063.000000283,063 0.5%
Other Asian (non-Chinese) &0000000000247644.000000247,644 0.4%
Chinese &0000000000247403.000000247,403 0.4%
Other &0000000000230615.000000230,615 0.4%
* Percentage of total UK population

Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population[128] and 37.4% of Leicester's[129] was estimated to be non-white as of June 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census.[130] As of 2007, 22% of primary and 17.7% of secondary pupils at maintained schools in England were from ethnic minority families.[131][132]


Countries where the English language has de facto or de jure official language status.

The UK does not de jure have an official language but the predominant spoken language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English which features a large number of borrowings from Old Norse, Norman French and Latin. Largely due to the British Empire, the English language has spread across the world, and become the international language of business as well as the most widely taught second language.[133] Scots, a language descended from early northern Middle English, is recognised at European level[134] and is not just a dialect of English. There are also four Celtic languages in use in the UK: Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and Cornish. In the 2001 Census over a fifth (21%) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh,[135] an increase from the 1991 Census (18%).[136] In addition, it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England.[137] Over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2% of the population) had some Gaelic language ability, including 72% of those living in Eilean Siar.[138] Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken by small groups around the globe with some Gaelic still spoken in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.

Across the United Kingdom, it is generally compulsory for pupils to study a second language to some extent: up to the age of 14 in England,[139] and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. In Wales, all pupils up to age 16 are either taught in Welsh or taught Welsh as a second language.[140]

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