Modern Britain: An Economic and Social History

By Sean Glynn; Alan Booth | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Social and political development

POPULATION SIZE AND DISTRIBUTION

Postwar demographic experience has done much to undermine the rather apocalyptic views expressed in the 1930s on the effects of a stagnant or declining population (Chapter 3). The UK population has continued to grow from census to census, but once again the picture has been more varied at regional level (Table 9.1). Both the Scottish and Welsh populations have been static since 1971, and even the total UK population has increased only slowly over the past two decades. In the second half of the 1970s, there were falls in the UK population in 1975-6, 1977-8 and 1978-9 and the total period fertility rate (the number of children that would be born per woman if prevailing age-specific fertility rates persisted through her childbearing lifespan) has since 1972 been consistently below the levels needed for the natural replacement of the population (OPCS 1990). Nevertheless, apart from the later 1970s, the UK population has continued to rise, albeit at a lower rate than hitherto. There has been a positive rate of natural increase (that is, the fall in the birth rate has been matched in most years by continuing falls in the death rate) and this has been enough to offset a net loss through migration in most years (Table 9.2).

Table 9.1 UK population, 1931-91 (thousands)

England & Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

UK

1931

39,952

4,843

1,243

46,038

1951

43,758

5,096

1,371

50,225

1961

46,105

5,179

1,425

52,704

1971

48,750

5,220

1,536

55,515

1981

49,155

5,131

1,533

55,848

1991

49,890

4,999

1,578

56,467

Source: Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1993.

-169-

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