Migration fuels biggest growth in population for two centuries

RECORD increases in the number of people living in England and Wales have seen the population soar to 56.1 million, latest figures have revealed.

The seven per cent increase of 3.7 million is the biggest between censuses in the two centuries since they began in 1801.

Officials from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the growth was fuelled by migration, increased life expectancy and a rise in fertility rates.

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In Yorkshire, the population grew by 6.4 per cent to 5.28 million, according to the 2011 census.

The population of Leeds rose by five per cent to 751,000, although its growth was dwarfed by that of Manchester, which surged by 19 per cent.

Sheffield’s population was up by 7.2 per cent to 550,000, but it could soon be overtaken in size by Bradford, which grew by 11.5 per cent to 522,000.

North Yorkshire’s population stood at nearly 600,000, up by 4.9 per cent, while York grew by 9.4 per cent to 198,000. Hull grew by 4.9 per cent to 256,000 and Wakefield was up by 3.5 per cent to 326,000.

The figures make England the fifth fastest growing country in the European Union. The ONS said the figures showed that the population for England and Wales was just under half a million higher than estimated.

They also revealed an ageing population, with more over 65s than ever before, with one in six in this age group in England and Wales. Of these, 430,000 were aged 90 or more.

In Yorkshire, there were around 875,000 over 65s, an increase of nearly 10 per cent, including 38,000 aged 90 and above.

Nationally, there has also been an increase in the number of people in their 20s and an increase in the number of young children.

There are over 400,000 more under-fives compared with 2001, partly reflecting a rise in the number of women of child-bearing age because of inward migration, the ONS said.

About 55 per cent of the growth in population was the result of net migration, with 45 per cent attributable to increased life expectancy and fertility rates.

More than half of the population growth was in London, the South East and the East of England. The largest increase in population was in London, which grew by 12 per cent, gaining more than 850,000 inhabitants to take its total population to more than eight million.

The chairman of Migration Watch UK, Sir Andrew Green, said the census demonstrated the impact of mass immigration.

He added: “We now find that even the official numbers previously understated the scale of net migration by 14 per cent and even this does not account for the illegal immigrant population who would not complete the census form.”

But Matt Cavanagh, of thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research, rejected concerns the UK was becoming overcrowded and said: “Although this is the biggest increase in population size, the rate of increase, seven per cent, is broadly similar to the rate of increase between 1910 and 1970, and only half the average rate of increase between 1801 and 1910.”

Age UK’s director general, Michelle Mitchell, said: “These figures show the emergence of a new generation of people in their late 1980s and 1990s.

“Better health means greater numbers of people over 65 able to contribute to their communities, families and the economy, but these statistics also illustrate the huge challenge of care and support for vulnerable older people.

“Most of those using social care services are over 85, underlining the urgent need for a social care system that is fit for its increasingly core purpose of supporting the oldest and frailest members of our society.”