We can have mass migration or we can have affordable housing. But it’s hard to see how we can possibly have both. That’s the obvious implication of the revised long-term population projections released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
According to the ONS’s projections, in the 15 years from 2021 to 2036, the population of the UK will increase by 6.6 million. Net migration accounts for a staggering 92 per cent of this – 6.1 million people, with emigration of 7.6 million more than offset by immigration of 13.7 million. This averages out to net migration of 405,000 per annum. Which is remarkable in itself, given that the ONS’s most recent set of projections predicted that the total would be below 250,000.
These projections are, however, frontloaded. According to the ONS, net migration is set to remain at over half a million until 2026, before levelling off to around 315,000 per annum from 2028 onwards. This might seem like a substantial fall – a return to sensible levels after net migration of 745,000 in 2022. But this new ‘long-run rate’ of net migration is still a huge number. In fact that 315,000 figure is higher than in any calendar year before 2021.
To put it another way, over the next 15 years alone, net migration is set to add the equivalent of five more Birminghams to the UK – one every three years on average. In fact, 6.1 million people is 70 per cent of the way to another London. It also represents a dramatically increased rate of population churn, given that cumulative net migration in the previous 30 years totalled 5.4 million people. In other words, our population is set to change shape more than twice as fast.