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Where Has London’s Population Increase Come From?

London currently has the biggest population it’s ever had. In February 2015, we hit 8.6 million people. It’s thought we could reach 10 million people by 2030. So here at Londonist we thought we’d look at where this growth is coming from.

London experiences a huge amount of population churn. Between 2001 and 2009, 3.8 million people arrived here while 3.4 million moved out. Here’s where they came from and where they went.

For people from other parts of the UK, the capital’s a very attractive place — but only if you’re a certain age. According to the Office of National Statistics, in the 12 months to June 2013, 55,000 more people left London for the rest of the UK than moved in from beyond the M25.














As we can see, there’s a big spike of late teenagers leaving London — presumably to go off to universities in other cities — and a large inflow of people moving into London in their early to mid 20s. These are likely to be graduates coming to London for work. But at either side of that 20-something peak the traffic is mainly one way: out. The ONS theorises that these are families leaving to find somewhere cheaper (and possibly a bit more suburban) to live.

It’s a long term trend, too. Here’s a chart showing both the overall net internal (blue) and international migration (red) figures between 1994 and 2014. We’ve been able to combine the two figures like this because every single year, net internal migration to London is negative, and net international migration is positive.













Chart by Clare Griffiths. Source: London Datastore.

In other words, the blue bars show that every single year, more people leave London for other parts of the UK than move to London from other parts of the UK. And the red bars show that every single year, more people from other countries move here than leave for other countries.

Without other sources of population growth London would be in terminal decline.

The figures show that net migration from overseas increased after 1999 or so. That’s several years earlier than the EU’s enlargement to include countries in central and eastern Europe in 2004, often blamed for an increase in immigration.

We can also see that internal migration levels declined around 2009 and are only now starting to approach levels of a decade earlier. We’d suggest this is down to the recession, and people preferring to stay put than risk moving to the home counties.












In 2014, just under 77% of London’s population was classified as British (PDF), with 12% from the EU and 11% from outside. Some of the British population will be long-term immigrants who have obtained British citizenship and made their lives here.

We also need to look at the birth rate in London.













The birth rate has increased from roughly 105,000 live births each year in the 1990s to more than 125,000 a year, every year since 2007. We’re making more of our own Londoners.

We’re also not dying at the rate we used to. In 1966, nearly 88,000 Londoners died. This, however, is how many people have died each year since 1992.














London is definitely growing. But it’s growing under its own steam as well as from external factors. Where will the next generation of Londoners come from?

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