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The Mayor of London The London Assembly

London’s population changes during the COVID-19 pandemic

The GLA demography team just released a report that assesses recently available evidence to try to understand the combined effect of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic on London’s population.

We examined this question in May last year, and found that the data collection used to monitor population change had itself been disrupted so our conclusions would probably need to be revised.

Except for the data on deaths, we are still very dependent on indirect evidence rather than official statistics, like we were last year. But since the various data sources show similar trends, we feel reasonably confident to share our interpretation.

Last May we showed that birth rates had not been changed in the way predicted by some sections of the press, and that migration to London had substantially fallen.

There’s nothing new to report now concerning births – it seems the birth rate continues to fall. And the number of excess deaths sadly continues to climb especially in the over 75 year age group, as we all know from the daily and weekly public health updates. So the natural change in London has dropped to a level last observed in the 2000s. It’s still positive, meaning the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, but is lower than before the pandemic (we estimate natural change as around +55,000 for the year to mid-2021, compared to +70,500 for the year to mid-2019.)

In contrast, for migration we found the situation has evolved since May. With the economic recovery and a return of jobs to London, we observed the net outflow of young adults we previously reported was a short-term change and has been reversed, probably mainly due to the revitalisation of the hospitality and tourism sectors. But house-price and GP registration data indicate an increased rate of loss of other age groups to surrounding regions compared to before the pandemic, and we interpret this as a longer-term trend.

We also reported in May that international migration had fallen due to the combined effects of the pandemic and Brexit. Now we find from recent visa data that flow at least partially recovered in the months to September 2021.

What does this all mean? The good news for our wonderful city is that our analysis indicates London’s population has been growing again since Spring 2021, albeit at a slower rate than before the pandemic.

We will continue to monitor the situation, and would welcome your feedback on the updated report, so that our future analyses can better meet the needs of those using our resources.