London’s population is on course to increase from its current nine million people to close to 11 million in 2050 or even more, according to new projections compiled by the Greater London Authority’s City Intelligence unit.
In the “very short term” to the middle of 2022, the analysis suggests the capital will grow by around 50,000 people a year, as the number of births in the capital continues to exceed the number of deaths, and despite the pandemic resulting in net inward migration to London from both overseas and other parts of the UK to switch to negative after many years of net growth.
The “central projection” scenario draws on recent trends to anticipate an acceleration of population growth after this “Covid period”, with the annual increase continuing to exceed 50,000 and possibly increasing to 63,000, lifting the total to between 10.52 million and 10.92 million by 2050. This would nonetheless represent a fall in the rate of growth, as London’s population increase over the last decade has averaged 88,200 people a year.
Alternative higher and lower range projection in the study produce scenarios for 2050 of up to 11.64 million and 9.80 million people respectively, the latter still a significant increase on today’s London population.
Within the central projection range, inward migration from elsewhere in the UK is expected to fall to 70% of recent levels and eventually to 50% from overseas during the three year “Covid period” to 2022, with the difference between birth and death numbers – known as “natural change” – accounting for more than its previous proportion of overall population increase, with Covid-related mortality playing a part.
However, the analysis foresees a subsequent recovery in net inward migration as a whole, with the domestic element – the net change in numbers of people coming to live in London from other parts of the UK – having the greater potential for variation.
Unlike international migration, domestic migration has long been negative, meaning more people have been moving out of London to other parts of the UK than the reverse. This is expected to continue, but the extent of it can be strongly affected by various economic factors, some of making moving more difficult.
The “central range” projection also assumes that average annual migration to London from overseas will remain net positive at approximately 95,500 over the longer term, as it has been over the past years (varying during that period from 69,200 to 126,400). The report notes:
“The last two decades have seen a number of shocks which might be expected to have significantly impacted international flows: EU expansion in 2004, 2007 and 2013; the credit crunch, housing crisis and great recession beginning in 2008; the EU referendum in 2016; and major changes to UK migration policy throughout the period. However, levels of international migration have been relatively stable, lending weight to the idea of the resilience of long-term trends.”
The central range scenario also anticipates the number of households in London to increase by between 33,600 and 37,700 per year in the 25 years to 2044.
Last week, the government produced a new National Infrastructure Strategy, which said it would be “pivoting investment away from London” as part of its declared intention to “level up” other regions of the UK.
This marks a sharp change of position by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as London Mayor from 2008 to 2016 had been a strong advocate of national investment in the capital in the national interest.
In 2014 Johnson described London as “the throbbing engine that powers the UK economy” and welcomed the Conservative government of that time recognising that “the simply staggering pace” of population growth meant the engine “requires more fuel”.
The full City Intelligence population report can be found via here. (2019-based projections).
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