skip to main content skip to search skip to footer skip to accessibility statement

Census 2021 purpleCensus overview

The census is undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) every 10 years, since 1801, and gives a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The census asks questions about individuals, their household and their home. In doing so, it helps to build a detailed snapshot of society. Information from the census helps the government and local authorities to plan and fund local services, such as education, doctors’ surgeries and roads.

The latest Census took place 21 March 2021, and the first results were released on 28 June 2022.

The census is important to local authorities across England and Wales. It is also vital to the government and many other public sector organisations.

This is because it gives information to help:

  • Develop policies
  • Plan and run services, such as schools, health services, roads and libraries
  • Decide how to allocate funds to make sure public funds get to where they are needed most

For example, census data showing how many people work in different jobs and industries are used to develop new job and training policies. Information on how people travel to work and how many cars they have contributes to planning roads and transport.

All figures, in this briefing, have been rounded to the nearest 100 and therefore may not sum exactly.

Population size

Population change in South East. Click or tap for a larger image.There were 59,597,300 people living in England and Wales on 21 March 2021, the day of the latest census. This is over 3.5 million more (6.3%) than in 2011 and is the largest census population ever recorded.

The English region with the largest population increase was the East of England, which grew by around 8.3% or 488,000 more residents. The English region with the smallest increase was the North East, growing by 1.9% or around 50,000 people. In Wales, the population grew by 1.4% or 44,000 people.

In Southampton, the population size has increased by 5.1%, from around 236,900 in 2011 to 249,000 in 2021. This is lower than the overall increase for England (6.6%), where the population grew by nearly 3.5 million to 56,489,800 and lower than the South East (7.5%). In the city, the male population increased by 4.6% to 125,000 and the female population increased by 5.6% to 124,000.

Nearby areas like Test Valley and Eastleigh have seen a greater increase in their populations, by around 12.1% and 8.9%, respectively, while others such as Fareham saw a smaller increase (2.6%) and New Forest saw a decrease of 0.4%. Looking at Southampton’s statistical comparators, the largest percentage change was recorded in Bristol which has increased by 10.3% from 428,200 in 2011 to 472,400 in 2021, an increase of 44,200 people. The smallest increase is in Sheffield where the population increased by 3,800 people or 0.7% to 556,500 in the 2021 Census.

The total population of local authority areas varies a lot, from Birmingham with around 1,144,900 people to the Isles of Scilly with around 2,100 people. In 2021, Southampton ranked 70th for total population size out of 309 local authority areas in England. This is the same position it held a decade ago in 2011.

More information can be found in the slide set and data compendium in the resources section below.

Census 2021 first release
Slide set
pdf | 1MB | 30.06.22

Population structure

Population pyramid Census 2021 Southampton and England. Click or tap for a larger image.The population pyramid by age, shows Southampton continues to have a much younger population profile in comparison to England as a whole. Comparing against England, the biggest difference in the age structure of the population is in those aged 20 to 24. In Southampton they account for 11.8% of the total population compared to 6.4% for England.

Southampton has a lower percentage of those aged 50 to 54 (5.1%) and those people aged 70 to 74 (2.7%) when compared to England (6.0% for those people aged 50 to 54 and 3.6% for those aged 70 to 74 years).

Although the overall population has increased, there are variations by age group within the city:

  • Population percentage change by age group: Census 2011 and 2021. Click or tap for a larger image.
  • Southampton’s population aged under 5 years in 2021 is 13,800 (5.5%) compared to 15,400 (6.5%) in 2011. Overall, this is a decrease of 10.4% and is reflective of decreasing birth rates nationally and locally.
  • The population aged 5 to 14 has increased by 20.5% to 28,200 (11.3%) from 23,400 (9.9%) in 2011. The under 15 age group as a whole has increased by 8.2% in Southampton, which is greater than the increase recorded for England (5.0%)
  • The population aged 15 to 24 has decreased to 43,000 (17.3%) in 2021 from 47,300 (20.0%) in 2011, a decrease of 9.1%. This is likely a reflection of reduced student residency in line with pandemic national and University policies at the time of the 2021 Census
  • The number of people aged 65 to 84 has increased by 13.4% to 29,600, reflecting the ageing population. However, the very old, aged 85 and over has decreased by 2.1%, which may be influenced by higher levels of pandemic related deaths amongst older people
  • Overall, the population aged over 65 in Southampton has increased by 11.1%, which is much lower than the increase recorded for England overall (20.1%)

More information can be found in the slide set and data compendium in the resources section below.

Census 2021 first release
Slide set
pdf | 1MB | 30.06.22

Population density

Population density 2021 Census ONS Comparators. Click or tap for a larger image.Population density in Southampton increased from 47.5 people per hectare in the 2011 to 49.9 per hectare in the 2021 Census; a change in density is 2.4 people per hectare. Meaning that Southampton is now more densely populated than in 2011.

Southampton has the 2nd highest population density among our ONS comparators and is the 2nd most densely populated area amongst the South East’s 64 local authorities, with around 36 people living on each football pitch-sized area of land. In comparison, Tower Hamlets in London has become the most densely populated local authority area in England (overtaking Islington) with the equivalent of around 112 people per pitch, whilst at the other end of the scale the amount of land in Eden in Cumbria works out at around five football pitches per resident!

Among our comparators Portsmouth is the most densely populated at 51.5 people per hectare (an increase of 0.8 people per hectare from 2011). The Isle of Wight is the least densely populated at 3.7 people per hectare (an increase of 0.1 people per hectare from 2011).

More information can be found in the slide set and data compendium in the resources section below.

Census 2021 first release
Slide set
pdf | 1MB | 30.06.22

Households

Household percentage change 2011 and 2021 Census by ONS comparator local authorities. Click or tap to open a larger image. The number of households in Southampton with at least one resident increased from 98,300 in 2011 to 102,300 in Census 2021; an increase of 4.1%. This is lower than the overall England increase of 6.2% and is the 6th lowest change amongst our ONS comparators. Hampshire and Bath and North East Somerset saw the biggest increases in households (7.8%) between 2011 and 2021, whilst Liverpool (0.5%) and Portsmouth (0.8%) saw the smallest growth.

More information can be found in the slide set and data compendium in the resources section below.

Census 2021 first release
Slide set
pdf | 1MB | 30.06.22

Future releases

Future detailed data from the Census 2021 will be released between now and summer 2023. Some of the releases that are expected are:

  • Demography and migration
  • Ethnic group, national identity, language, and religion
  • Health, disability, and unpaid care
  • Housing
  • Labour market and travel to work
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Education
  • UK armed forces veterans

The Southampton Data, Intelligence and Insight team will release more updates on the Southampton Data Observatory as the data is made available. More information on the future releases is available on the Office for National Statistics website.

Resources

Local resources

First release from the 2021 Census, compared with 2011 Census and other population estimates. Results include population by age and sex, population density and households. A summary slide set and a data compendium comparing Southampton, ONS comparators and England can be downloaded using the links below.

Census 2021 first release
Slide set
pdf | 1MB | 30.06.22
2021 Census data compendium
Dataset
xlsx | 485KB | 29.06.22

ONS data links

First release from the Census 2021, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

ONS – First results from the Census 2021
Report
ONS - Census 2021
Dataset
ONS - How the population changed where you live: Southampton 2021 Census
Visualisation
ONS - Play the Census 2021 population map game
Visualisation
ONS – Future release timetable
Report

Last updated: 30 June 2022