London Population to Fall for First Time in 30 years

London's population has been predicted to shrink for the first time in more than 30 years, according to a report by accountancy and analysis firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The change is being driven by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as changes in people's working habits, with more people working from home leading to a reassessment of living arrangements. The report warns that the capital's population could shrink by 300,000, from about 9 million in 2020 to 8.7 million in 2021.

Although official population figures are yet to be published, if the prediction is realized, it would mean a decline in London's population for the first time since 1988. The report, "2021 UK and Global economic outlook", also warns of a "baby bust" taking place, where a drop in the number of births in 2021 will also contribute to a fall in population.

On the predicted population decline in London, it states: "Beyond COVID-19, migration out of London may also be influenced by wider concerns around the U.K.'s economic and political standing. 16 percent of U.K. residents surveyed in November 2020 reported they would consider moving out of the U.K. some time within the next 12 months. Among those considering to move, the main reasons cited were concerns about the UK economy (59 percent) and Brexit (53 percent).

Hannah Audino, an economist at PWC told Newsweek: "We did a survey in September that looked at people's pre and post-lockdown intentions to move to a city center, suburban area or town or village. We found that 30 percent of people who previously thought they would move to a city, now want to live in suburbs, towns or villages.

The population of London is predicted to decline for the first time in more than 30 years Getty

"We've also drawn on a survey from the London Assembly in August, they found that around 5 percent of Londoners will consider moving out of the city in the next 12 months, so we applied that to ONS population projections for London and found that quite strikingly there could be a decline in London's population for the first time in the 21st century.

"People with remote working situations are now thinking that moving out of London is a better option because they don't have to commute as much, they want green spaces and gardens. I think there will be quite a big effect of graduates as well for whom the instinct will not be to move to London, who might choose live at home more and see how long the remote working situation will last for."

Audino also said that the accountancy firm believes net European Union (EU) migration to the U.K. could turn negative in 2021 which would have a particular effect on London as it attracts EU migrants.

*Study methodology and notes

  • PwC Research ran a nationally representative survey of 1,000 people and asked how COVID-19 had impacted their willingness to purchase a place to live over the next two years, and the type of property and area they would be most likely to move to in the future.
  • The London Assembly Survey was based on 450 individual responses from Londoners and was taken between 16 July and 4 August 2020.