Immigration rise takes population to almost 60 million

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The population of the United Kingdom has reached almost 60 million, one in 12 of whom was born abroad, government figures show.

The population of the United Kingdom has reached almost 60 million, one in 12 of whom was born abroad, government figures show.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) emphasiseBritain's changing ethnic make-up, with 4.6 million people describing themselves as "non-white".

The ONS said the UK was home to 59.2 million people in 2002, a rise of 9 million in 50 years and of 1.7 million during the past decade. It estimates the population will reach 64.8 million in 2031 because of higher life expectancy and the "increasingly important factor" of immigration. The average age of the population has risen from 34.1 years in 1971 to 38.2 in 2002 and is projected to reach 43.3 in 2031.

The data, from the 2001 census and more recent surveys where available, shows a total of 8.3 per cent of British residents (4.9 million) were born abroad, almost double the proportion recorded in 1951. The overseas-born population increased more between 1991 and 2001 than in any of the preceding post-war decades. Immigration increased from 265,000 people in 1993 to 513,000 in 2002, while the numbers leaving rose from 266,000 to 359,000.

Just over 92 per cent of British residents were white. Of the remaining 4.6 million belonging to ethnic minorities, Indians were the largest group, followed by Pakistanis, people of mixed race, black Caribbeans, black Africans and Bangladeshis. The number of non-white Britons has risen by 53 per cent in the past decade.

People are more mobile within the country than ever before, with 11 per cent moving region in the year before the 2001 census. Although 53,000 more people left London for other parts of the UK in that period than settled in the capital, its population still increased as it is the most likely destination for immigrants. Six regions gained population from elsewhere in the country, with the largest influxes in the South-west, the East Midlands and East Anglia.

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