Welcome to the Public Works blog.

Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Impact of a growing population on public services

The National Records of Scotland predicts Scotland's population will rise by almost half a million people in the next 25 years to reach 5.78 million. However, there will be proportionately fewer people of working age.

The figures suggest there will be an extra 200,000 people in Scotland by 2022 and a 9% jump to almost 5.8 million by 2037. Scotland's birth rate and inward migration levels have remained high by historic standards and people at older ages are expected to live longer.

In 2012:

The estimated population was 5,313,600, the highest ever.
Migration increased the population by about 9,700.
There were 2.39 million households.

The main projections for 2012 to 2022 show:

28% of the rise in overall population is attributed to natural increase (more births than deaths) with the other 72% due to assuming continuing inward net migration
The number of children aged under 16 will rise by 4% from 910,000 to 950,000.
The number of people aged 75 and over is projected to increase by about 28%, from 420,000 in 2012 to 530,000.

Projections from 2012 to 2037 show:

The average (median) age is projected to increase from 41.5 years in 2012, to 42.3 years mid-2022 and 44.3 by mid-2037
The number of people of working age will rise from 3.35 million to 3.51 million over the next 10 years then drop back to 3.48 million by 2037
The number of people of pensionable age is projected to increase from 1.05 million in 2012 to 1.33 million by 2037 - a rise of 27%.

Overall populations projections for the other countries in the UK show a 16% rise in England between 2012 and 2037, a 10% rise in Northern Ireland and an 8% rise in Wales.

These predictions are important for UNISON members as an indicator of the demographic pressures on Scotland's public services. For example the number of over-75s would nearly double in the next 25 years with consequences for health and acre services, particularly if there is not a commensurate improvement in the quality of life expectancy. More children mean more work for health visitors and education services.

Longer life expectancy is of course to be welcomed as active pensioners play an important role in our communities. However, it also has financial challenges for pensions and funding public services.

A Scottish Government ­spokesman said: "All developed countries - including Scotland and the UK - face increasing pensioner populations. As our pensions paper makes clear, the increase in the Scottish dependency ratio over time, compared to the UK, is largely driven by slower growth in the working age population. Therefore, Scotland's demographic challenge is to increase its working age population over the longer-term as a share of overall population."

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