A Changing Demographic Mix

By 2030, the UK will have the fastest growing and second largest population in Europe: South East England will be the main centre of this growth. Society will be ageing faster, and proportionally we will have fewer children. It will also be more diverse.

By 2030, the UK will have the fastest growing and second largest population in Europe. This growth will vary across geographies. England’s population is projected to grow by 5.0%, with much of this focused in the South East. In contrast, for Northern Ireland the figure is 3.7%; while for Wales and Scotland the figures are 2.7% and1.8% respectively. Overall, we will be ageing faster and, most likely, we will have fewer children. The proportion of the population aged 75 and over will grow by 2m to 11m. With varied birth rates and the shift in sources of immigration, the country as a whole will also be more diverse, with multiple cultures, religions and languages.

Although, post-Brexit, net migration may fall a little as it shifts to countries beyond Europe, we can still expect a further 2 million citizens from international migration. At the same time, there will be an increase of around one million from people living longer. When combined, this means we will experience “more births than deaths”. The non- white population, which will largely be a younger demographic, is expected to be greater than 20% of the total population for the first time, the majority of whom will continue to live in many of the larger cities. Smaller towns and rural locations are correspondingly expected to be home for an ageing, predominately white population. That said, despite the impact of Covid-19, the attraction of urban life remains. By 2030, over 85% of the UK population will live in urban areas; one of the highest rates in Europe.

At the same time, the make-up of the Armed Forces is changing. In part, this is because of the changing nature of conflict, and therefore the skills requirement for new recruits is changing. But it also reflects the increasing diversity of the UK population. “The veteran community will become younger, relatively more female, and diverse.” Indeed, the young cohort from which the Army recruits will become more ethnically diverse than the population as a whole. Black and minority ethnic troops make up 8.8% of the 145,000-strong Armed Forces, which is broadly in line with the population, (albeit that number includes 3,760 Gurkhas, around 1,300 Fijians, and other non-white troops recruited from the Commonwealth). And yet many soldiers are still recruited from low-income families in largely white working-class towns where social attitudes remain conservative. As a result, some are already finding this cultural change difficult, “It’s hard to talk about white privilege when you are dealing with a bunch of blokes from the north.” Perceptions of equality have to be carefully managed, as officers might sometimes be seen to promote women and ethnic minorities over “traditional soldiers”.

In addition to increased diversity within the Armed Forces, fewer see the military as a long-term career, which may affect their expectations when they leave. “I think very few people join for a career today, they join for a job – and this is going to be more common, so expect the terms of Service to change.”

Looking ahead, it is likely that the total number of veterans will shrink, not least because of the passing of those who went through National Service. At the same time, the complexity of their needs may well change. Some suggest this should be reflected in the way ex-Service men and women are defined, “There is something in the term veteran. It immediately signals an old white bloke.” This perception may well change over the next decade. In summary, the diversity of those leaving the Armed Forces and the complexity of their need profile will increase.

Example Implication: As the demographic of the veteran community changes, so too do their needs and expectations. Supporting organisations must be more agile, and adjust their capabilities, resources and leadership to better reflect this.


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