Almost 40 per cent of Province’s growth in population down to immigration as Northern Ireland nears the two million mark

New figures have been released showing Northern Ireland’s population inching ever-closer to the two million mark – with two-fifths of that growth due to the arrival of immigrants.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 12:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 2:49 pm
NISRA table tracking the annual growth rates of NI’s population from the time of the early ceasefires in 1994, until present; the peak of 1.1% annual growth came just ahead of the 2008 crash, after which growth more than halved
NISRA table tracking the annual growth rates of NI’s population from the time of the early ceasefires in 1994, until present; the peak of 1.1% annual growth came just ahead of the 2008 crash, after which growth more than halved

The data, from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), shows that as of mid-2019, there were an estimated 1.894m people living in the Province.

This is an annual increase of 12,000 people (0.6%) on the 2018 estimate – a similar growth rate to the three other countries in the UK.

However, the Republic of Ireland saw a growth of rate of 1.3% in the year to April 2019 – taking its population to 4.92m.

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In 1926 – the first census after the creation of the state in 1921 – there were only 1.26m people in the Province.

This latest annual increase, from mid-2018 to mid-2019, was mainly driven by natural growth.

There were 22,600 births and 15,300 deaths, making a net growth of 7,300 people to the Province’s population. In addition 25,600 people came to Northern Ireland and 20,800 left – spelling a net inward migration of 4,800 people.

When broken down into percentages, that means 39.66% of the growth from 2018 to 2019 was from immigration.

This is not an especially large number compared to the long-term, UK-wide pattern.

For example, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford states: “More than half (56%) of the increase of the UK population between 1991 and 2018 was due to the direct contribution of net migration.”

It also goes on to add that a net inflow of new migrants to the UK is expected to account for 73% of total population growth by 2028.

The Oxford observatory further states that, in England and Wales, net international migration is projected to make the largest contribution to population change over the next 25 years (+8% and +5%, respectively), but that Scotland would experience population decline of 8% in the absence of net international migration (or cross-border migration from other parts of the UK).

In contrast, in Northern Ireland has the highest fertility rate amongst UK nations, and “natural change without net migration is projected to be the main driver of future population trends”.

The number of people aged 65 or over) increased by 2.1% (to 314,700 people) – with NISRA noting this is “over three times faster than the total population”.

The proportion of the population aged 65 or more has increased from 13% per cent in mid-1994 to 16.6% in mid-2019.

The proportion of population aged 15 or under dipped from 25.4% in 1994 to 20.9% in 2019.

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