Saturday, December 29, 2007

UK demographics – politics and blunders

The Office of National Statistics (ONS), as the name suggests, is the UK’s master of all things statistical. The numbers it issues drives market forecasts and most importantly the way that public spending is allocated to regions and towns in the UK.

What is disturbing is how it forecasts keep changing - by significant amounts. What you see above is the difference between the forecasts issued in 2004 and those in 2006. It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that the number of 15-34 year-olds has been grossly underestimated. The number of 50-74 year olds has been over-estimated – but not by anything like the same level. This might be because many more people in this age group are migrating. If you look at the discrepancy between the 2006 and 2000 number the figures are much larger.

The most important reason for the increase in younger people is the lack of realism about the level of immigration into the UK and the propensity of some immigrant groups to have very large families. Fact, over 20% of kids born in the UK are to women who were not born in the country.

To say this raises some ‘interesting’ questions is an understatement. Maybe it is just conspiracy theory but there is a growing suspicion that the compiling of the statistics has come under political pressure to play-down the impact of immigration.
It is either that or incompetence. Neither explanation fills one with much confidence about the integrity of the UK’s national statistics. Dick Stroud

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