Predicted future change

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Predicted future population change

This section presents data on predictions around future population growth.

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Overall population change predictions

The Office for National Statistics and Cambridgeshire County Council both produce separate forecasts for population change in our areas. Due to different methodology (the Council’s forecast uses additional local knowledge) the forecasts are not identical. The findings from the 2021 Census were generally closer to the Council’s predictions, but these were still an underestimate compared to the Census findings.

At the time of writing, the ONS projections are not available and so this work looks only at the forecasts produced by the Council. For more information on how the Council produces forecasts please see here. In time once the ONS projections are available we plan to present this data in the same way; please contact us if you would like to be alerted once this work is complete.

Please note that the population data shown here for 2021 is Census data for March 2021; elsewhere on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Insight slightly different data is used for mid-year 2021.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s own projections are available looking forwards 20 years from the 2021 Census. Here, we focus mostly on the 2031 predictions but 2041 (and other years) are available to see in the dashboard.

Page 2 of the dashboard shows overall predicted future population growth in our areas. We expect that ten years on from the Census, in 2031, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough together will exceed one million people (a 13.0% increase). By 2041, the total population is predicted to be 1,070,445 – a 19.7% increase from 2021.

This is nearly 176,000 additional people from 2021 to 2041, which is similar to the current population in the whole of Huntingdonshire.

Population growth is far from uniform – numbers are predicted to increase most in South Cambridgeshire with an estimated 22.1% increase by 2031 or 37.2% by 2041. In contrast, Cambridge and Peterborough – which saw substantial growth between 2011 and 2021 – will still continue to grow but at slower rates than most of our more rural areas. These population forecasts from the Council take account of both demographic changes (births and deaths locally) but are more affected by current plans for building new communities; should these plans change, the accuracy of the forecasts will vary.

We cannot compare the predictions for our area with the overall figures for England, as currently we are limited to using the projections from Cambridgeshire County Council which do not cover England as a whole.  

As with the change from the 2011 Census to the 2021 Census, there is considerable variation in how different age groups are predicted to change, and the next sections explore the predictions by broad age groups.

Predicted changes in the numbers of children and babies 

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Pages 3 and 4 of the dashboard show the forecasts for people in the younger age groups. In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the population aged 0-14 is projected to increase from 157,390 to 159,280 in 2031 (a 1.2% increase). This is very modest growth in comparison to the predictions for older adults and working age adults – and this is important both for service planning in education and health, and also because it contributes to the overall ageing of the population. However, more growth in this age group is predicted between 2031 and 2041 (6.6%, 10,525 children).

This modest growth is not evenly distributed – the predictions are that by 2031 there will be a reduction in the number of children aged between 5 and 14, and the only group that will increase in size is the youngest children aged 0-4 (see page 3 of the dashboard). Not all areas show this same pattern; South Cambridgeshire is predicted increases in all children’s age groups and Peterborough is predicted to see reductions across all groups.

The largest predicted percentage increases (to 2031) in the youngest population are in East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire, where the numbers of people aged 0-4 will see large increases. South Cambridgeshire and East Cambridgeshire will have up to 29% more people aged 0-4 (2,515 additional children in South Cambridgeshire and 1,065 in East Cambridgeshire). The increases in Cambridge, Fenland and in Huntingdonshire are smaller but still important to note. (9.1% more people aged 0-4 or 575 children in Cambridge, 15.5% or 800 children in Fenland, 8.9% or 860 children in Huntingdonshire).

By 2041 the forecasts predict additional growth across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with 7.9% more children from the 2021 baseline – mostly in the youngest age group aged 0-4.

Predicted changes in the numbers of working age adults

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Working age people of course use public services, though in some cases less often than older or younger people. They are also the age group most likely to contribute financially to the funding of public services through taxation, and most will provide some support to those who are not working. Pages 3 and 4 of the dashboard shows forecast data for people in this age group. 

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the population aged 15-64 is projected to increase from 579,965 to 653,375 in 2031 (page 4; a 12.7% increase, substantially lower than the predicted increase in older adults). While all age groups are projected to increase in size by 2031, the number of adults in their fifties will not have increased by much (page 3).

Page 4 shows that the largest predicted percentage increases (to 2031) in the working age population are seen in South Cambridgeshire (23.0%) and East Cambridgeshire (18.0%). The smallest predicted percentage increase is seen in Cambridge (8.0%) and Huntingdonshire (7.2%).

Page 3 shows that by 2031, Fenland and Huntingdonshire are predicted a reduction in the number of adults aged from 50-59, while Cambridge and Peterborough are both predicted to have fewer adults aged 25-34.  South Cambridgeshire is predicted to see increases in all working-age bands.

Predicted change in numbers of older people 

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Increasing numbers of older people – and the associated ‘aging’ of the whole population – is perhaps the biggest challenge to the public sector across England. Some older people continue to work, many contribute to society in other important ways, most live healthy and independent lives, and it is vital that they are supported to do so. Nonetheless it is true that older age brings considerable increase in risk of poor health and an increased need for health and social care. Older people are much more likely to have multiple health conditions requiring care and management and some will require residential or nursing care towards the end of their lives.

Pages 3 and 4 of the dashboard shows forecast data for people in this age group. On page 4, in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as a whole, the population aged 65 and older is projected to increase from 157,175 to 198,190 in 2031 (41,015 additional people, a 26.1% increase). This increase is higher in some areas than others – Cambridge is predicted the smallest rise at 21.3% and East Cambridgeshire the largest rise at 31.5%.

It is noticeable that the oldest age groups (80 and over) are the ones predicted to increase the most. Across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, predictions are for 19,795 additional people aged 80 and over by 2031 (47.0%). The largest predicted percentage increases (to 2031) in the very oldest population are in our more rural areas, where the numbers of people aged 80 or over will see large increases. South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire will have almost 60% more people aged 80+, and East Cambridgeshire increases are nearly as large. The percentage increases in Cambridge and in Peterborough are smaller but still important to note. (22.1% more people aged 85+ in Peterborough, 17.7% in Cambridge).

The dashboard also allows users to look further ahead; by 2041 the estimates predict the number of people aged 65 and over will have grown by 46.4% in comparison to 2021. Again, the oldest age groups are likely to grow the most.



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