The UK population could reach nearly 74 million by 2036 with net migration fuelling the rise, figures suggest.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) projects the population will increase by 6.6 million people (9.9%) between 2021 and 2036.
This includes a net migration of 6.1 million people and about 500,000 more births than deaths.
The figures say there could be an additional one million people aged 85 and over in the UK by 2036.
A Number 10 spokesman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thought legal migration had been too high and that it “must come down quickly.”
The projected population growth to about 73.7 million, from the latest estimate of 67 million, is faster than the previous calculation and comes after net migration to the UK hit a record 745,000 in 2022.
The figures suggest the UK population could hit 70 million by the middle of 2026 – a decade sooner than projections published in 2022.
During the period between mid-2021 and mid-2036, the ONS’s projections suggest:
- 10.8 million people will be born
- 10.3 million people will die
- 13.7 million people will immigrate long term to the UK
- 7.6 million people will emigrate long term from the UK
ONS projections are used to calculate the likely demand for housing and public services.
Statisticians are now working on the assumption that from 2028 net migration will contribute 315,000 extra people to the UK per year, an increase greater than the population of Doncaster.
Home Secretary James Cleverly has announced that planned restrictions on foreign care workers bringing dependants to the UK will come into force on 11 March.
Additionally, the minimum salary required for those arriving on skilled worker visas will rise from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4 April.
Mr Cleverly said: “I’ve been clear that migration is too high and we must get back to sustainable levels.
“Last year I set out robust measures to reduce the numbers coming into our country, tightening the rules on care workers, skilled workers and making sure that people can support their family members that they bring over.”
Tom Pursglove, minister for legal migration, said the measures would make a “tangible difference” and showed the government was “already acting in response to these sorts of figures”.
But Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, said the latest figures reflected “14 years of Conservative failure on the economy and immigration”.
“Labour would reform the points-based immigration system to boost training and better link it to the needs of the economy,” he added.
Calls for a cap
The projections also put renewed pressure on Mr Sunak from Tory critics, with Downing Street resisting calls from former home secretary Suella Braverman for a cap on legal migration numbers.
Robert Jenrick, who quit as immigration minister over the Rwanda policy, said the projected population growth would “deepen the housing crisis”.
James Robards, the head of population at the ONS, said: “Our projections, which use assumptions based on current and past trends, are not predictions.
“If migration comes down, then so will our assumptions for use in future projections.”
The ONS’s projections also show an increasing number of older people in the UK.
By 2036, the size of the UK population aged 85 years and over is projected to increase from 1.6 million (2.5% of the total population) to 2.6 million (3.5%)