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Scotland's Population Projected to Continue to Rise

Published: 29 Oct 2015 09:30

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Scotland's population is projected to continue to increase into the future.

Statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show the population of Scotland is projected to rise from 5.35 million in 2014 to 5.51 million over the next ten years, and then to continue to rise to 5.7 million by 2039 – an increase of seven per cent over the 25 year period.

Commenting on the publication of the 'National Population Projections for Scotland', Registrar General and NRS Chief Executive Tim Ellis said:

"The latest population projections indicate that while Scotland's population is expected to reach record levels for years to come, it is not projected to be quite as high as the previous set of projections suggested."

"Scotland's population is projected to continue to rise into the future because although Scotland's birth rate and inward net migration levels have recently fallen, they are still high by historic standards. Also people at older ages are expected to live longer."

The report provides projections for the period up to 2039. They show what happens under certain assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration. The assumptions are based largely on past trends and although they will reflect past policy and economic impacts, they do not take account of future changes that may occur as a result of policy initiatives.

Main findings

Principal projection

  • The population of Scotland is projected to rise from 5.35 million in 2014 to 5.51 million over the next ten years, and then to continue to rise to 5.7 million in 2039 – an increase of seven per cent over the 25 year period.

  • Over the next decade, ten per cent of the projected increase in Scotland's population can be attributed to natural increase (more births than deaths) while 90 per cent of the increase is due to assuming continuing inward net migration to Scotland (57 per cent from international migration and 32 per cent from cross-border migration with the rest of the UK).

  • Over the next ten years, the number of children aged under 16 is projected to increase by two per cent from 0.91 to 0.93 million. The number of children is then projected to decrease to 0.92 million by 2039, resulting in an overall increase of only one per cent over the 25 year period from 2014 to 2039.

  • The number of people aged 75 and over is projected to increase by around 29 per cent in the first ten years of the projection period, from 0.43 million in 2014 to 0.56 million in 2024. It is then projected to continue rising, reaching 0.8 million in 2039 – an increase of 85 per cent over the 25 year period.

  • Over the next ten years, the population of working age is projected to increase from 3.38 million to 3.49 million (an increase of three per cent). It is then projected to peak at 3.54 million in 2028. After this the working age population is projected to decline, to 3.42 million in 2039. Overall there is a one per cent projected increase over the 25 year period.

  • The number of people of pensionable age and over is projected to increase by three per cent between 2014 and 2024, from 1.06 million to 1.09 million. It is then projected to reach 1.36 million by 2039 (an increase of around 28 per cent compared with 2014).

  • The population is projected to continue ageing, with the average age rising from 41.9 in 2014 to 45.2 in 2039.

  • The dependency ratio – the ratio of people aged under 16 and of pensionable age and over, to those of working age – is projected to rise from around 58 dependants per 100 working population in 2014 to 67 per 100 in 2039. This rise is mainly due to the increase in the population of state pension age and over.

  • While Scotland's population is projected to increase by seven per cent over the 25 year period, England's population is projected to increase by 17 per cent, Northern Ireland's population by ten per cent and Wales's population by six per cent between 2014 and 2039.

Variant projections

  • Under the majority of the alternative scenarios illustrated by the nine available variant projections Scotland's population is projected to increase between 2014 and 2039. Only the low population variant and the variant with natural change only, project a decrease in Scotland's population, by two per cent from 2014 to 2039.

  • All the variant projections show Scotland's population ageing over the next 25 years with the number of people aged 75+ projected to increase by between 72 per cent and 99 per cent under these variant assumptions.

Notes to editors

1. The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland's population and the Office for National Statistics produce projections for Scotland on behalf of NRS.

2. Today's report gives projected population figures for Scotland. The full publication (and previous years' population projections) can be downloaded from National Population Projections section of the NRS website. More information on the National Population Projections for the United Kingdom are available from the ONS website.

3. The infographics supplement accompanying this release can be downloaded from the Infographics and Visualisations section of the NRS website.

4. Because the projections are based on uncertain information about the number of births, deaths and migrants far in the future, nine variants have been published. These variant projections are based on alternative assumptions of future fertility, mortality and migration, and give users an indication of the inherent uncertainty of demographic behaviour, especially for the long-term projections. Under the majority of the alternative scenarios illustrated by the nine available variant projections Scotland's population is projected to increase between 2014 and 2039. Only the low population variant and the variant with natural change only, project a decrease in Scotland's population, both by two per cent from 2014 to 2039. All the variants show Scotland's population ageing over the next 25 years.

5. The figures for working age and pensionable age and over take into account the increases in the state pension age as set out in the 2014 Pensions Act. Between 2014 and 2018, the state pension age will rise from 62 to 65 for women. Then between 2019 and 2020, it will rise from 65 years to 66 years for both men and women. A further rise in state pension age to 67 will take place between 2026 and 2028. The UK Government will review state pension age every five years in line with life expectancy. The figures quoted here are based on the likely increase from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Further information regarding these changes can be found at http://www.gov.uk/changes-state-pension and in the State Pension age timetables (PDF document).

6. A useful summary measure of the age structure of a population is the dependency ratio – the ratio of people aged under 16 and those of pensionable age and over, to those of working age. Dependency ratios can be defined in different ways, but here are defined as the number of children aged under 16 and the number of people of state pension age and over, per 100 people of working age. These ratios should be interpreted with care. For example, a simple interpretation is the number of older people or children who are 'dependent' on people aged 15 to 64, the assumption being that most older people and children are not economically active. The reality is of course much more complex, since – to give just a few reasons – many people of typically working age are unemployed or economically inactive (e.g. at school or university), the age at which people retire varies greatly and many retired people are financially independent. However, these 'dependency' ratios provide a useful way to examine the relative age structure of the population.

7. Further statistics on Scotland's population can be accessed in the Statistics section of the NRS website.

8. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff. General information about population statistics can be accessed in the About our Statistics section of the NRS website.