Immmigration and rising birthrate to push UK population to 90 million by 2050

Last updated at 16:05 25 November 2007

Britain's population could soar to 90million over the next 50 years.

The dramatic increase, fuelled by immigration and a rising birth rate, would add more than 50 per cent to today's population and put enormous pressure on housing, transport and public services.

Statisticians said the rise would be the equivalent of adding a city the size of Sheffield to the country each year.

The figures are expected to be announced tomorrow by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD) and were seized on by the Tories yesterday as evidence that a cap is needed on immigration from countries outside the European Union.

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Labour ministers claim that measures are already in the pipeline to deal with an expected population surge over the coming decades, including a new points-based system for screening migrant workers.

GAD statisticians have made a series of predictions based on estimates of three key factors - net migration, birthrates and lifespan.

Earlier this month, they published their central forecast, known as the 'principal projection', which predicted the number of UK residents would rise to 71.1 million by 2031 and 78.6 million by 2056.

Tomorrow, GAD will release 'variant projections' which describe how the population will grow if the three key factors turn out higher or lower than anticipated.

Independent statisticians, using calculations based on data already disclosed by the GAD, have been able to determine in advance the figures likely to be released on Tuesday through The Office for National Statistics.

Their estimates put the population at between 66million and 75million by 2031 and between 66million and 90million in 2056.

The wide gap between the lower and upper figures reflects the difficulty statisticians face in making accurate predictions on population growth.

Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, said: "All projections are uncertain, but the higher levels of these projections are truly alarming.

"It is clear that we would find it hugely difficult to cope with population growth at this rate. This shows why action to slow the growth of population is urgently required."

GAD's population forecasts, which are used to plan public spending, have proved to be too low in the past.

Its previous estimates two years ago suggested the population in 2056 would be only 69.6million, with a 'high projection' of 82.6million.

The estimate has been increased due to the surge in immigration in the past two years, particularly from the new EU states in eastern Europe.

Official statisticians now expect net immigration to run at 190,000 a year for years to come.

Birthrate estimates have also been increased as immigrant women have, on average, more children than British-born women.

The overall UK average is 1.84 babies. The average for British-born women is 1.6 and for foreign-born women 2.2.

The highest birthrate in the UK is among Pakistani-born women, who have an average of 4.7 children each. Last year, 22 per cent of births in the UK were to foreign-born women.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are committed to controlling migration in Britain's national interest. Our new points-based system will ensure that only those that Britain needs can come here to work and study.

"We have more staff working at our borders than ever before, and through the biometrics programme we are securing the UK's borders even further."

Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics said that half a million foreigners came to live and work in Britain last year as immigration hit new records.

Nearly a quarter of a million said they came for jobs and more than 150,000 more arrived as students.

Fewer than one in five were from Eastern European countries. They were outnumbered by migrants from Commonwealth countries in the Indian sub-continent and Africa.

At the same time, an unprecedented total of more than 200,000 Britons left to live abroad.

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