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Northern Ireland's population to hit 2 million by 2034

Our ageing population is projected to exceed that in the rest of the UK

By Lisa Smyth

Published 30/10/2015

The population age profile is set to increase
The population age profile is set to increase

The population of Northern Ireland is predicted to hit two million by mid-2034, according to new figures.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) has released the findings of the Population Projections for Northern Ireland, which reveal the 1.9m milestone will be reached just five years from now in mid-2020.

The report also suggests the trend of an ageing population here will continue - with the extent of ageing in the population here projected to exceed that in the rest of the UK.

It predicts there will be almost half-a-million people over the age of 65 by 2039, while almost 5% of the population will be over 85.

A leading public service union has said the report demonstrates that politicians at Stormont must act to address the financial blackhole facing health and social services to ensure they can cope with the rise in demand that will follow the increasing population.

Anne Speed, head of bargaining and representation at Unison, said: "We need to deal with the immediate issues facing the service but it is imperative that we look to the future as well. The service is stretched as it is and with an ageing population will come the requirement for more care as there will be more people with complex medical conditions. We need to make sure the resources are there to cope with demand."

The statistics have been released as the Commissioner for Old People warned home care services across the Northern Ireland are at breaking point. Claire Keatinge said care being provided is failing older people because of under investment.

Also this week, the head of the Royal College of Midwives said Northern Ireland is facing a shortage of midwives, while the British Medical Association has warned of the possibility of a shortage of hospital doctors in future years.

According to the NISRA report, the population is projected to increase by 180,800 people to reach 2.021 million by mid-2039.

This represents a 0.4% annual rate of growth. During this time, the population will continue to age, with those aged 65 and over projected to increase by 74.4%, to reach 498,500. The number of people in this age group is expected to exceed the number of children by mid-2028, with the gap projected to widen. In 25 years time, it is projected that almost one in four of the population will be aged 65 and over, whereas 18.4% will be children.

By mid-2039 the group aged 85 and over is projected to increase from 34,400 to 88,600 - an increase of 157%.

Although the life expectancy of women continues to be higher than that of men on average, the gap is closing, according to the report. In 2039 it is projected that men will account for 42.9% of the population aged 85 and over, rising from an estimated 32.1% in mid-2014.

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