Belfast Telegraph

Ageing Northern Ireland population edging closer to two million mark

Figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency revealed the increase from 1.88m in its 2018-based population projections for Northern Ireland (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency revealed the increase from 1.88m in its 2018-based population projections for Northern Ireland (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The population of Northern Ireland is expected to reach two million in the next 25 years.

Figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) revealed the increase from 1.88m in its 2018-based population projections for Northern Ireland.

The statistical report provides population projections for the country between mid-2018 and mid-2043 by age and sex.

Within the figures it has been projected that Northern Ireland will have the second largest population growth across the UK at 5.7%. Only England is expected to have a higher growth (10.3%).

Meanwhile, the population of Scotland is predicted to increase by 2.5% by 2043, while Wales' is expected to decrease by 0.9%.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Ian Shuttleworth, senior lecturer at the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen's University, explained that the increase in the country's population is nothing to be worried about as nations need growing populations and Northern Ireland has "plenty of space".

However, he did express concerns about the projection that women will have 1.92 children in their lifetimes, which is lower than the 2016-based projection of two children.

"That means that in the end, without immigration, the population will fall at some time in the future," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"You've got to have at least two children being born per couple.

"The population does increase but as time goes by that increase gets slower so natural increase is important."

The NISRA report also projected that the population of Northern Ireland will become significantly older. The number of children aged up to 15 is projected to decrease over the next 25 years, from 393,500 in mid-2018 to 351,100 in mid-2043.

The number of people aged 16 to 64 is also projected to decrease from 1,179,900 to 1,156,700, but the number of people aged 65 and over will jump from 308,200 to 481,400 - an increase of 56.2%.

Despite this increase in people aged 65 and over, Dr Shuttleworth added that nothing surprised him in the findings.

"The population is continuing to age and there will be fewer younger people so there was nothing there that particularly shocked me," he said.

"These are the trends that you expect to see. You see them in Scotland, you see them in England and you see them in most parts of the developed world."

Life expectancy is expected to rise in the country as males, who have a current life expectancy age of 78.7, are expected to live to 80.2 in 2028 and 82 on average by 2043. Female life expectancy is also predicted to rise from 82.4 to 83.5 in 2028 and 85 in 2043. It was also projected that there will be 535,659 births and 466,801 deaths between mid-2018 and mid-2043.

Over the last five years the country has experienced an average net international inflow of 2,200 people per year and lost an average of 100 people to the rest of the UK in the same period.

It is projected that Northern Ireland will gain 38,700 people between mid-2018 and mid-2043 through migration.

Finally, the working age population in Northern Ireland is also expected to increase by 1.9% in 25 years. Since April 2010, the state pensionable age for women has been gradually increasing from 60 to bring it in line with men, with women's state pension age reaching 65 in November 2018. The state pension age for both men and women will then increase further to 66 by October 2020, to 67 by 2028 and to 68 by 2046.

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