The population grew sharply over the past decade – but the pace varied dramatically in different parts of England and Wales.
Early results from the census carried out last year have given a fascinating insight into the change, with London surging towards Megacity status and older people increasingly dominating.
England and Wales have seen a 6.3 per cent rise since 2011 to 59.6million – slower than the 7.8 recorded in the previous decade.
The East of England was the region that swelled the most, up 8.3 per cent from 5.8million to 6.3million.
The population of London grew by 7.7 per cent in a decade – up from 8.2million to 8.8million. But in some borough the rate was far higher, with Tower Hamlets seeing a 22 per cent spike.
The expansion in Wales was also notably lower, with Ceredigion seeing numbers drop by 5.8 per cent over the period.
Meanwhile, the proportion of the population in older age groups continues to rise. Nearly a fifth – 18.6 per cent – were over 65, up from 16.4 per cent at the previous census.
Although the census does not offer any reasons for the rising numbers, other figures have shown immigration has been largely responsible for population growth since the 1990s.
However, the net inflow slowed around the time of the Brexit referendum in 2016 and was seemingly curbed further by the pandemic.
Births were also significantly higher than deaths throughout the 2010s – until 2020 when Covid triggered a fall in the former and a rise in the latter.
England and Wales have seen a 6.3 per cent rise in population since 2011 to 59.6million – slower than the 7.8 recorded in the previous decade
Key points from census
The total resident population of England and Wales stood at 59,597,300 on census day, March 21 2021, up 3,521,388 from 56,075,912 a decade earlier – an increase of 6.3 per cent.
An estimated 51 per cent of the population was female and 49 per cent male, compared with 50.8 per cent female and 49.2 per cent male in 2011.
Some 18.6 per cent of the population were aged 65 and over, up from 16.4 per cent in 2011, while 23.1 per cent were aged under 20, down from 24 per cent.
Tower Hamlets saw the biggest percentage rise across the decade (up 22.1 per cent), followed by Dartford (20 per cent), Barking & Dagenham (17.7 per cent) and Bedford (17.7 per cent).
Kensington & Chelsea saw the biggest percentage fall in its population (down 9.6 per cent), followed by Westminster (6.9 per cent), Ceredigion (5.8 per cent) and Copeland (5 per cent).
North Norfolk had the highest proportion of people aged 65 and over on census day 2021 (33.4 per cent), followed by Rother (32.4 per cent) and East Lindsey (30.4 per cent).
The 2021 survey, carried out on March 21 last year, came against the backdrop of both Brexit – which has seen restrictions on immigration – and the coronavirus pandemic.
Scotland’s census data is not expected until next year after a series of bungles.
The total population across the two nations was 59,597,300, the ONS said – with 56,489,800 in England and 3,107,500 in Wales.
Figures show that the South East remains the most populous region in England with 9.3 million people, followed by London (8.8million), while the North East was the least populous (2.6 million).
Wales had lower population growth compared with all English regions, increasing by just 1.4 per cent – approximately 44,000 people.
The lowest in England was the North East at 1.9 per cent.
The ONS said: ‘Population change in certain areas may reflect how the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic affected people’s choice of usual residence on census day.
‘These changes might have been temporary for some and more long-lasting for others.’
More than 24 million households across England and Wales filled in census questionnaires in spring last year, with a record 89 per cent of responses completed online.
Separate figures for Northern Ireland published last month showed that the population on census day was a record 1,903,100, up by 92,200 or 5 per cent since 2011.
The ONS figures show 51 per cent of the population is female, and 49 per cent male. That compared to 50.8 per cent female and 49.2 per cent male in 2011.
The census takes place across the UK every 10 years and provides the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in the country.
Its results are used by a range of organisations including governments, councils and businesses, and underpins everything from the calculation of economic growth and unemployment to helping plan schools, health services and transport links.
Early results from the census carried out last year have given a fascinating insight into the change, with London surging towards Megacity status and older people increasingly dominating
Wales had lower population growth compared with all English regions, increasing by just 1.4 per cent – approximately 44,000 people
Data from the 2021 census for England and Wales will be published in stages over the next two years, the ONS said.
Future releases will include figures on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing plus – for the first time – information on UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The census was taken at a time when coronavirus restrictions were still in place across the UK, with people only allowed to leave their homes in England for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household, and the rule-of-six on outside gatherings not coming into place until the end of March.