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Britain’s Demographic Challenge: The implications of the UK’s rapidly increasing population

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, September 2017

The population of the United Kingdom is growing at a rate of more than 500,000 a year, equivalent to a new town of about 10,000 people being created every week. On current projections, by 2039 there will be nearly 10 million more people living here – enough to populate Greater Manchester three times over. What are the implications of this for the country, and are we prepared for the challenge?

In this new pamphlet, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts takes stock of the scale of this change for the UK, sets it in historical and international context and considers the challenges that it will present. Not only will the UK need 4 million more homes, and the space in which to build them, it will need new hospitals, schools, roads, jobs and leisure facilities.

While it is impossible to be precise about future population growth, these challenges are unlikely to melt away over the next quarter of a century. Even if the UK sought to change course after Brexit with a more restrictive immigration policy, it would be many years until a consequent reduction in population worked its way through. So it is important to ensure that the government is properly planning to meet these challenges now.

As the UK frames a new relationship with the EU and the world, now is also the time to consider the pros and cons of the demographic course the country has been on in recent years and whether that needs to change. As Lord Hodgson sets out, there are economic arguments concerning population growth, but there are also considerations around quality of life and social cohesion.

‘The people of this country are entitled to have laid out before them the range of challenges and opportunities that demographic change will cause. Given the apparent scale of that demographic change and the long-term impact of any policy decisions such a debate should begin sooner rather than later.’ – Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

About the Author

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts is a Conservative peer and former MP. His particular focus, in addition to trade, industry and finance, has been the charity and volunteer sector. He has authored a number of reports for the Government on the sector – most recently on the regulation of third party campaigning. He is an officer of several all-party parliamentary groups and is currently chairing a cross party House of Lords committee looking into citizenship and civic engagement.

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