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Migration does not slow rate of ageing population

Ageining population 480

Different levels of migration have not led to different rates of population ageing within the UK population, new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found. 

The paper, published in Population Studies, compared Scotland’s population with England and Wales over the last 150 years to examine long-term migration patterns.

In Scotland, high levels of outward migration resulted in a low rate of population growth, with the departure of many young, working age people, ageing the population.

This trend contrasted with the population of England and Wales, which experienced nearly zero net migration over the same period, but aged at a nearly identical rate to Scotland.

The results challenge studies that claim the adverse economic effects of an ageing population, such as a reduced tax base and higher state healthcare and pension costs, can be offset by increasing the working-age population through immigration in the long term. While migration has a clear impact on population size, the study finds a growing population can still be an ageing one.

Professor Michael Murphy, author of the paper, says: “Changing population age structure in the long term is more complicated than simply opening our borders to more migrants in the hope of increasing the proportion of working-age people.

“While this finding does not mean that Europe can shed its responsibility to manage migration humanely, it shows that immigration is not a long-term solution for an ageing population.”

Notes to editors

The effect of long-term migration dynamics on population structure in the England and Wales, and Scotland by Professor Michael Murphy is published in Population Studies, 2016. The article is available to download here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00324728.2016.1185140

Professor Michael Murphy is Professor of Demography of the Department of Social Policy at LSE.

For more information

Peter Carrol, LSE Press Office, telephone: + 44 (0)207 955 6939, email: p.carrol@lse.ac.uk

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14 June 2016