UK population ‘might have shrunk by 1.3million’ amid pandemic

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UK population ‘might have shrunk by 1.3million’ amid pandemic

The UK population might have shrunk by more than 1.3million amid the coronavirus pandemic - a fall which would be the largest recorded since the Secon

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The UK population might have shrunk by more than 1.3million amid the coronavirus pandemic – a fall which would be the largest recorded since the Second World War. 

A new report published by The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence sets out ‘illustrative’ analysis which suggests there may have been an ‘unprecedented exodus’ of foreign-born workers. 

The numbers suggest that the resident population of London may have decreased by almost 700,000 alone.

The report by authors Michael O’Connor and Jonathan Portes questions the accuracy of official estimates published by the Office for National Statistics.  

New analysis suggests the UK may have seen an 'unprecedented exodus' of foreign-born workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Heathrow Airport is pictured in December

New analysis suggests the UK may have seen an ‘unprecedented exodus’ of foreign-born workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Heathrow Airport is pictured in December 

A new report published by The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence sets out 'illustrative' analysis which suggests the UK population may have fallen by more than 1.3million, paintin a very different picture to original ONS statistics

A new report published by The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence sets out ‘illustrative’ analysis which suggests the UK population may have fallen by more than 1.3million, paintin a very different picture to original ONS statistics

The authors conducted their own analysis of the ONS’s Labour Force Survey which is one of the main sources of data on employment and unemployment in the UK.

The LFS suggested the number of people born in the UK who have a job and live in London had actually increased by more than 250,000 over the last year while the overall UK population appeared to have considerably increased.

But the authors said this seems ‘implausible’ given the damage the coronavirus crisis has done to the UK economy. 

Their own analysis of the numbers suggested an overall drop in the UK-born population of approximately 55,000 and a massive drop of just under 1.3million for the non-UK born population – a drop of more than 1.3million in total.      

The authors suggested the apparent flaws in the ONS estimates were driven by a ‘lack of knowledge about what is happening to immigration’.   

They said while the LFS ‘does not and is not intended to measure directly migration to or from the UK, there is no doubt’ that based on the survey ‘there has been an unprecedented fall in the number of foreign-born residents in the UK, from which an unprecedented exodus could be inferred’. 

The authors said some of this fall in the number of foreign-born workers could be because the pandemic will have made it harder to contact people who have not been in the UK very long and who live in private rented accommodation.

But they added: ‘It seems more plausible that people actually are leaving. And given the nature of the pandemic and its economic and social impacts, that makes sense.’ 

They pointed to the fact that migrants, especially those from Europe, are ‘disproportionately likely’ to work in the hospitality sector which has been hammered during the pandemic.       

Furloughed foreign-born workers or those who lost their jobs may have chosen to return to their home country because of lower costs and potentially a lower chance of catching coronavirus, the authors suggested. 

The authors pointed out that the limitations of the LFS is down to the fact it is a ‘survey, not a count’ and the ‘ONS has not made any changes to its population projections to take account of Covid-induced emigration’.   

Estimates published last year by the ONS showed there were 66.8million people in the country as of mid-2019, an increase of 0.5 per cent over 12 months

Estimates published last year by the ONS showed there were 66.8million people in the country as of mid-2019, an increase of 0.5 per cent over 12 months

The authors stressed that their estimates are ‘crude and illustrative, and will certainly not be accurate’. 

But they added: ‘Overall, instead of an increase of about 350,000 over the year, the total population falls by more than 1.3 million. 

‘While total population was almost flat in the late 1970s, if this is even close to being accurate, this is the largest fall in the UK resident population since World War 2.’

In London their estimate ‘implies that the resident population… might have fallen by nearly 700,000’.

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