Migrants on their way to Britain? Increasing numbers of immigrants are pushing up population levels and could help them reach almost 110 million by 2081
By STEVE DOUGHTY
The population of Britain could soar to more than 100million in just over 60 years’ time, figures prepared by Whitehall experts showed yesterday.
Their calculations set out the huge increase in numbers if migration continues at sky-high levels, birthrates continue to rise, and life expectancy keeps on going up.
Their figures outstripped all previous predictions and said that the population will shoot up from the present level of just over 60million to hit 100million in the late 2060s.
By 2081, 74 years from now, the population will have almost doubled to just under 109million, they said.
The projections by the Government Actuary’s Department, a specialist organisation operating under the wing of the Treasury, say what will happen if the upward pressure on population continues at the highest possible levels.
They compare their figures with a prediction from the Government’s Office for National Statistics which says the most likely size of the population in 2051 is 77million. The new projections say the figure may be over 90million by then.
Predictions of even greater population increases come in a week when teachers and Health Service workers have been warning of growing difficulties because of population pressures.
Migration, which brings the greatest upward push on the population, is at the centre of concern over the need for more housing, transport, schools and hospitals to cope with growing numbers.
Local authorities are protesting that existing population figures do not reflect real numbers.
The new figures also embarrassed ministers, who have been caught out repeatedly in errors over the real impact of immigration.
Home Office immigration minister Liam Byrne told MPs yesterday that the highest possible level of the population in 2081 was 91million – nearly 18million short of the numbers being published in Whitehall as he spoke.
Home Office officials said Mr Byrne had been using estimates that took into account high migration, but not high birthrates or fast-rising life expectancy.
The minister’s admission came during a hearing on immigration conducted by the home affairs select committee.
Several members of the committee expressed concern at the impact of migration on public services such as schools, housing and crime.
Despite their concerns, Mr Byrne insisted that migration continued to have “enormous economic benefits” and cited figures suggesting that overseas workers were adding £6 billion a year to British national output.
The scale of the new estimates suggests population increases in this century will match those of the industrial revolution during the 19th century.
The population doubled from 20million to 41million in 80 years between 1821 and 1901. But in more than 100 years since 1901, numbers have gone up by just 50 per cent.
The figures from the Actuary’s Department brought warnings from migration think-tanks and opposition politicians.
Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch said: “This is a sharp reminder of what could happen to our population during this century if the Government fails to take action very soon to bring a halt to mass immigration.
“They have consistently underestimated the scale of immigration. They have had to raise their assumptions of future net immigration six times since 1997. We cannot afford mistakes of this kind.”
Current Government assumptions say net immigration – the number of who come to live in Britain minus the number who emigrate – is likely to go on at 190,000 a year. The estimate was raised this autumn from 145,000.
But the high-level estimates from the Actuary’s Department take into account possible net immigration of 250,000 a year. This is about the level recorded by Whitehall in 2004, when figures put net immigration at 244,000.
In 2006, official figures said net immigration was 191,000.
The Actuary’s Department also reckoned birthrates will increase. Its high estimates expect women to have 2.04 children each, instead of the 1.84 at present.
Birthrates are currently rising fast thanks to higher numbers of children born to recently arrived migrants. In 2001, the rate was 1.63 children for each woman.
The new projections also rely on life expectancy improving at a rate of 2 per cent each year. That would mean that a man would live to 84.7 as opposed to 77.3 now, and a woman to 87.5 instead of 81.7.
The Actuary’s Department said that at the lowest possible estimates, the population towards the end of this century will be little higher than it is now. That prediction relies on the lowest birthrate prediction, a much lower improvement in life expectancy, and low-level immigration.
Influx of Eastern Europeans is unabated
The record influx of migrants from Eastern Europe shows no sign of stopping – with thousands who initially headed to Ireland moving here, a Bank of England expert said last night.
Professor David Blanchflower told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee that migrants who arrived alone from countries such as Poland were now bringing over their families.
He also said Eastern Europeans who at first headed to Ireland could soon flock to Britain, where there is more readily available building work.
There are more than 80,000 Eastern Europeans in the Republic. As a result, he said, the Office for National Statistics’ prediction of migrants swelling the population by around 190,000 every year would prove accurate. This was only recently upgraded from 145,000.
Professor Blanchflower, a member of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, also said the arrival of Eastern Europeans had forced down the wages of British workers by reducing the average pay rise.