National Records of Scotland

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Summary of Results

Summary of Results

The results of this new set of projections, summarised in Table 1, show the total population of Scotland falling steadily from 5.06 million in 2003 to 4.88 million by 2028. Longer term projections for up to 40 years ahead, also produced by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD), show a slightly faster decline after 2028 to 4.5 million in 2043. Although the trend of a slowly falling population is still the same as the previous 2002-based projection, the 2003-based projection indicates that this fall in population will take place from 2005 onwards.

Table 2 provides information on the projected components of change between 2003 and 2028. It is clear from this table that the most significant factor affecting future projected levels of population is the natural decrease, where the number of deaths exceeds the number of births. More detailed information on the fertility assumptions which lead to the low projected numbers of births is given in the fertility section. The number of births has been falling since the early 1980s, and this trend is projected to continue. Lower birth rates lead to a lower number of women passing through child bearing ages in the next generation. This further contributes to lower numbers of births in future.

A summary of projected populations by broad age groups is given in Table 3; projected populations by sex and five year age groups are given in Table 6. These tables show that the age structure of the population is projected to change notably between 2003 and 2028. The main changes are:

  • the total population of Scotland is projected to fall from 5.06 million to below 4.9 million in 2028;
  • the number of children aged under 16 is projected to fall to 82 per cent of its 2003 level by the year 2028;
  • the number of people of working age is projected to fall by 8.5 per cent from 3.16 million in 2003 to 2.89 million in 2028;
  • the number of people of pensionable age[Footnote 1] is projected to rise by more than 27 per cent to over 1.2 million in 2028;
  • the population of males aged 65 and over is projected to increase by just over 60 per cent by 2028, whilst for females the corresponding increase is just over 40 per cent;
  • the mean age of the population is projected to rise from just under 40 at the present time to just over 45 by 2028.

A useful summary measure of the age structure of a population is the dependency ratio - the ratio of persons aged under 16 or over pensionable age to those of working age. Table 4 shows that the dependency ratio is projected to remain around 60 per 100 from 2003 to 2021. After 2021, and the completion of the change to the state pension age, the dependency ratio will rise to 69 per 100 working age population in 2028, and eventually reach 77 in 2043.


1. Note that between 2010 and 2020 the pensionable age for women rises from 60 to 65, and the figures take account of this.

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