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Census 2021 data: Economically Inactive Population Change

The Census 2021 aggregated results for age and gender have been published by the Office for National Statistics and, within the data, some indication of population change that could be linked to deprivation and poverty can be inferred. One of these such metrics is the proportion of a borough's population that is economically inactive.

Change in Proportion of Residential Population that is Likely Economically Inactive (2011-2021)

As the first Census 2021 release groups the age-related data into five-year bands, the Consumer Data Research Centre has used the Under 20 and Over 65 population as a proxy for economic activity, while recognising that some 15-19-year-olds will be employed, that some people in the 20-24 band may be economically inactive students, and some people over 65 will continue to work and earn. In addition, it is not correct to assume that an economically inactive person is poor or deprived of economic resources.

However, there is likely some correlation, as it is harder for people in these age bands to gain employment to improve their economic circumstances, should they need to. The approximations we make are crude but can still provide some insight into the broader age-related trends in London boroughs. Further, more detailed releases of Census 2021 aggregated data, due in winter 2022, will further refine our understanding of demographic change in London and how it can link to profiling poverty in the capital city.

We have compared the percentage of the borough population that falls into this category (Under 20 or Over 65) and compared this with the equivalent percentage for 2011. We have then mapped the change in this percentage across the ten years.

Doing so reveals a distinctive spatial pattern, with outer west and south-west London seeing the greatest increase in proportion of residents likely being economically inactive, while inner south and east London develops a stronger working-age population base and so may see improved economic outcomes in the near future. Relatively higher immigration rates into east and south-east London in recent years, and larger families here, may have resulted in a higher proportion of population with earning potential, while highest property costs in the south-west may have resulted in a stagnation of population churn here, with economically active populations less able to move into the area from elsewhere, while the existing population ages and retires. This might in the longer run result in a rebalance of London's economic distribution - this has already been seen to some extent in recent years with the inner city increasingly becoming a relatively less deprived part of the city, as workers look to reduce their commutes into the centre and take advantage of dynamic city living opportunities.

Residential Population Change (2011-2021)

We have also mapped the general change in residential population by borough, from 2011 to 2021. There is some correlation between the areas seeing an increase in the economically inactive proportion of the population, in outer south-west London, and a fall, or slower growth, to their overall population. The centre of London, however is seeing the slowest population growth, or indeed falls in two central boroughs, an inevitable consequence of years of housing unaffordability for many former residents of these areas.

London's population momentum is shifting eastwards, and outwards. The demographic evolution will doubtless lead to new pressures on London's population and new areas and aspects of deprivation and poverty will appear.