The London population could shrink this year.
In the immortal words of Samuel Johnson, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – and at the moment, it sure looks like a lot of people are tired of life. I mention this because accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has released their UK Economic Update for 2021, a report which indicates that London’s population is set to fall for the first time since 1988, ending decades of steady population growth in the capital.
We’ll get to the why in a minute (although I think you could probably guess most of them already), but the report predicts that London’s population – 9 million lovely people, per 2020 figures – could fall by over 300,000 people this year. The bustling streets of Soho, the packed Central Line, the hordes of people on the South Bank; all could be a tad quieter in future if fewer people call London home. As the report says, “a shift away from city-living is likely to both increase the
number of people moving out of the capital, and decrease the number of people moving in.”
The forecasted drop is driven primarily by two factors: Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. In the first instance, the ending of free movement for EU residents as a result of the UK’s departure from the bloc has resulted in fewer arrivals from the EU and the rest of the world (let’s be totally honest, the divisive rhetoric and outright xenophobia from some corners has likely driven this too). The pendulum might even swing the other way, with more people predicted to leave the UK for the EU than the other way round, according to PWC – the first time since the 1990s that could happen.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic provides the other major reason for the predicted decline. With all of us having spent plenty of time in the past few months confined to overpriced flats and expensive house shares, many Londoners are rethinking their living situation. Add to that the proof that working from home is a viable long-term (and significantly cheaper) option as opposed to commuting into Central London, and you’ve got plenty of people wondering if they’d be better off living outside the capital. Other factors in the population decline include fewer graduates moving to London, and a ‘baby bust’, with the report predicting that “there could be fewer babies born in 2021 than in any year since records began”.
The report had some other cheery highlights, including news that gender and ethnicity pay gaps could increase this year, 10 million UK residents could experience food poverty, and the nation’s unemployment rate could see its largest ever quarterly increase in the spring. Inspiring stuff, isn’t it? However, there were some positive predictions to hold onto; PwC also reckon one in eight newly registered cars in the UK will be electric or hybrid (ahead of petrol and diesel cars being phased out), and believe that the majority of electricity generated this year will come from renewable sources (timely, given the new wind power record set last month). Let’s just hope that more people choose to remain in the greatest city on Earth, eh?
If you’re thinking of leaving, can we convince you to stay with a list of London’s little pleasures?
Also published on Medium.