Ready for Ageing? - Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change Contents

Annex 2: Demographic changes (relevant throughout the report)

65.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has updated its projections up to 2021 based on the recent release of data from the 2011 Census. In England[25] in 2021, compared to 2011:

·  There will be 24% more people aged 65 and over

·  There will be 39% more people aged 85 and over.[26]

66.  The ONS has projected that in England in 2030, compared to 2010:

·  There will be 51% more people aged 65 and over

·  There will be 101% more people aged 85 and over.[27]

67.  Looking further into the future, Guy Goodwin, Director of Population and Demography Statistics, ONS, told us that over a 50-year period we can expect a doubling of the population in the UK aged over 65, and a very substantial—four times or more—increase in the main projection of those aged 85 and over.[28]

68.  These demographic shifts are occurring for two different reasons. First, people are living longer; secondly, we are now reaping the consequences of significant changes in the UK's birth rates in the period following the Second World War—the 'baby boom'. The first is a long-run phenomenon. The second is beginning to hit now, and will last for around the next 30 years (see figure 1 below).


Population aged under 16 and 65 and over, United Kingdom[29]

Living longer

69.  The same dynamics that have led to a higher proportion of older people in the population have also yielded a steady rise in our expectation of life at birth and at later ages. There are two principal methods to predict future life extensions: period life expectancy and cohort life expectancy. Period life expectancy assumes that a person will experience the age-specific mortality rates that hold at that time. The cohort method takes the predicted changes in those rates and builds them into the prediction. We have used the cohort method below, as it provides a more useful description of the length of life that individuals might expect.[30]

70.  Babies that were born in 2011 can expect a median lifespan of 93.75 years for males and 96.7 years for females. Males born in 1991 can expect to live, after 2011, for another 71.0 years and females for another 74.3 years.[31] Professor Sarah Harper, Professor of Gerontology and Director, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford, told us that if we use cohort life expectancy for the 2007-birth cohort, "you can say that 50% of that cohort will still be alive by the time they are 103".[32]


71.  Professor Philip Rees, Emeritus Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds, explained that there is significant academic discussion about whether there will be continuing reductions in mortality and associated increases in life expectancy, with two polar views. The first, put forward by Jay Olshansky, was that we are approaching the limits to life expectancy, and that a number of disease trends (for example, increasing obesity leading to much higher rates of diabetes and associated mortality) will mean that we will not see the continuation in improvement in mortality rates at older ages.[33] The second, proposed by James Vaupel, was that the historical record of the countries with the best life expectancy records suggested no limits to improvements driven by progress in wellbeing and medical science. Professor Rees related how, by translating these optimistic views into future forecasts, studies have suggested that very high proportions of current birth cohorts in a sample of advanced countries will survive to be centenarians.[34] The Committee asked Professor Rees about the levels of confidence that it is possible to have in projections of the number of older people that we can expect to see in this country. His response, broadly, was that the older the age group under discussion, the less confidence it is possible to place in the projections.[35]

Healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy


72.  Healthy life expectancy is defined as expected years of remaining life in 'good' or 'very good' general health.[36] In 2008, UK men at age 65 had a healthy life expectancy of 9.9 years, and women of 11.5 years (see figure 2).[37] Guy Goodwin told us, however, that while the latest figures suggested that the healthy life expectancy for women was broadly increasing at the same rate as life expectancy, the healthy life expectancy of men was increasing at a lower percentage increase than life expectancy.[38]


Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at age 65 for males and females (for the period 2007-09) with the UK's constituent countries[39]

Source: Government Actuary's Department


73.  Disability-free life expectancy is defined as expected years of remaining life free from a limiting long-standing illness or disability.[40] Professor Harper suggested that international data supported the notion that people were "delaying the onset of disability". This meant that while life expectancy had increased, the number of years that people spend with disability had also increased. Thus, although people are seeing an increase in the number of years that they will spend with disability, this is decreasing as a percentage of their life.[41]

74.  Drawing on a range of projections, Professor Rees found that population ageing will increase the population suffering from limiting long-standing illness by 39% between 2010 and 2050, but that if the decreasing trends of the last decade are reproduced in the next four decades, the increase will be clawed back to 6%.[42] Professor Rees also stressed that taking into account the specific disability suffered is very important. A significant challenge will arise from the projected growth in numbers of people with dementia. An 83% increase in the number of people with dementia by 2036 will place substantial extra demands on formal and informal care networks.[43] The Trades Union Congress (TUC) reported that the difference between the local authority areas with the highest and lowest levels of disability-free life expectancy at 65 is 12.1 years for men, and 12.3 years for women (see Annex 7).[44]


75.  Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby of the University of Kent argued that if people living in the most deprived areas enjoyed the same rate of disability-free life expectancy as the most advantaged, they would have a further 2.8 million years of active life, in which they could contribute to society.[45] There are signs that older people's involvement in the labour market is showing consistent growth. Between April and June 2011, over a third of women in England aged 60 to 64 and nearly one-quarter of men aged 65 to 69 were still economically active.[46] For men, the estimate of average age of withdrawal from the labour market increased from 63.8 years in 2004 to 64.6 in 2010. For women, it increased from 61.2 years in 2004 to 62.3 years in 2010.[47] The number of people of state pension age and above in employment in the UK has doubled over the past two decades. Two thirds of these people work part-time.[48]

Past changes in fertility

76.  Our society is 'ageing' in another sense.[49] After the Second World War, the UK's birth rate rose and remained relatively high for two decades. The increase in the size of the working population that resulted as these cohorts entered the labour market helped to counteract the long-run economic effects of rising longevity. But those cohorts are now nearing retirement. Instead of mitigating the long-run impact of longevity they will add to it.[50] During the years on which this Report focuses, this will be of particular importance.[51] It underlies the economic and fiscal challenges outlined in Annex 4.


77.  It is predicted that each person of the new full state pension age in 2035 will be supported by 2.87 people of working age, as compared to 3.22 people in 2015 (a decrease in the old age support ratio, or OSR, of 38%).[52] As the Central Government Departments' evidence to us suggested, "even with the proposed [state pension] changes, the support ratio declines in the future".[53] Any future restrictions on immigration would also decrease the old age support ratio by reducing the pool of workers in the country.[54]

78.  The structure of the UK's population in 2035 as estimated before the recent Census was as follows. The estimates based on the 2011 Census are not yet available.


Estimated and projected age structure of the United Kingdom population, mid-2010 and mid-2035[55]

79.  Professor Rees also outlined changes in a 'very old age support ratio' (VOSR), which divides the number of people at ages 50-64 by the number of persons aged 85+, whose children mostly will be in the former age group. The VOSR decreases from a median of 8.32 in 2010 to 3.11 in 2050, a fall of 63%. Though there is a much greater uncertainty about the accuracy of the VOSR than there is about the accuracy of the OSR, Professor Rees suggested that this implied that more care will need to be provided by persons outside of the late middle age group of children of the very elderly.[56]

Policy implications of demographic shifts

80.  The rising number of older and 'older old' people in the population (many of whom will have chronic health problems), and the effects associated with the post-War generations beginning to withdraw from full-time work, underpin this Report. The need to support this age group and the need to avoid unsustainable tax burdens falling on younger people will have an effect on how the Government and individuals need to think about saving and paying for older age (see Annexes 4, 5, 7 and 18).

81.  As Annexes 9 to 15 lay out, greater numbers of older, often frail people will lead to significant challenges for the provision of healthcare and social care. The doubling by 2030 of the number of people aged 85+ will have a substantial impact on those public services that are particularly important for older people, an impact for which they are worryingly ill-prepared.

25   Due to the effects of devolution, our focus is primarily on England: see Annex 1. Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government, wrote to the Committee stating that: "The impact of demographic change will have particular significance for Wales, which has the highest concentration of older people within the UK nations ... The numbers of those aged 85 and over are increasing at the fastest rate. Since 1983, their number has more than doubled and latest projections show it will double again up to 2033, by which time it will have reached 160,000, some 5% of the total projected population". Back

26   ONS, Interim 2011-based subnational population projections: local authorities, counties, regions and England: single years of age, personsBack

27   Central Government (DoH, DWP and DCLG), written evidence. Back

28   Q 19 Back

29   ONS, Measuring National well-being, Social Trends 42 - population, 17 January 2012, p.9. The graph was mid-year estimates for 1971 to 2010-based projections for 2011 to 2031. Source: ONS, National Records of Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Back

30   ONS statistical bulletin, Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in the United Kingdom, 2004-06 to 2008-10, 19, October 2011, p.16. Back

31   ONS, 2010-based national population projections lifetable template: England and Wales, p.16. Back

32   Q 101 Back

33   Q 100 (Simon Ross, Population Matters). Back

34   Professor Philip Rees, University of Leeds. Back

35   Professor Philip Rees, University of Leeds. Back

36   ONS, Pension Trends, Chapter 3: Life expectancy and healthy ageing (2012 edition), 16 February 2012, 3-4. It should be noted that due to European Union requirements, the definition of healthy life expectancy has changed recently: the definition formerly was based on expected years of 'fairly good' or 'good' health. Back

37   ONS, Pension Trends, Chapter 3: Life expectancy and healthy ageing (2012 edition), released: 16 February 2012, 3-8. Back

38   Q 42 (Guy Goodwin and Ben Humberstone, Head of ONS Centre for Demography, ONS). Back

39   The Scottish Parliament Finance Committee, 2nd Report, 2013 (Session 4): Demographic change and an ageing population, p.10. Back

40   ONS, Pension Trends, Chapter 3: Life expectancy and healthy ageing (2012 edition), 16 February 2012, 3-4. Back

41   Q 95 Back

42   Professor Philip Rees, University of Leeds, supplementary written evidence. Back

43   Professor Philip Rees University of Leeds. Back

44   Trades Union Congress (TUC). Back

45   Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent. Back

46   ONS, Pension Trends, Chapter 3: Life expectancy and healthy ageing (2012 edition), 16 February 2012, 3-9-3-10. Back

47   ONS, Pension Trends, Chapter 4: The labour market and retirement (2012 edition), 16 February 2012, 4-9. Back

48   ONS, Older Workers in the Labour Market, 2012, 13 June 2012, pp.1-4. Back

49   Central Government (DoH, DWP and DCLG), written evidence. Back

50   Pensions: Challenges and Choices. The First Report of the Pensions Commission, 2004, pp.10-11.  Back

51   British Society of Population Studies. See Annex 4 for a definition of the 'dependency' ratio. Back

52   ONS, National Population Projections, 2010 - Based Statistical Bulletin, 26 October 2011,; Professor Philip Rees, supplementary written evidence. These figures take into account projected changes to the state pension age, and as such are very sensitive to policy decisions. In their written evidence, the British Society for Population Studies told us that "If a fixed age threshold had been used, such as age 65, the OSR for the UK would have been 3.9 in 2010 and 2.6 in 2035 (based on the ONS 2010 principal projection)". Cf. Professor Philip Rees; Professor Anthea Tinker, King's College London (KCL). Back

53   Central Government (DoH, DWP and DCLG), written evidence. Back

54   Population Matters; Institute for Public Policy Research; British Society of Population Studies written evidence; Q 40 (Professor Ludi Simpson, University of Manchester); Q 34 (Suzie Dunsmith, Head of Population Projections Unit, ONS). Back

55   ONS, National Population Projections, 2010-Based Statistical Bulletin, 26 October 2011. Back

56   Professor Philip Rees, supplementary written evidence; Q 96. Back

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