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United Kingdom's Population Trends, Challenges & Outlook

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  • 0:00 Population of the…
  • 0:50 Multiple Nations
  • 2:21 Immigration
  • 3:44 Sources of Stability
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The U.K. has some of the world's most stable demographic figures, but it still faces an uncertain future. This lesson explains how literacy and life expectancy don't make up for regionalism and immigration.

Population of the United Kingdom

With more than 63 million people, the United Kingdom is one of the largest countries by population in the European Union. Compared to other countries, it is almost one of the most demographically stable. With a relatively low birth rate coupled with a high life expectancy, the U.K. actually has a balanced population. Compare this to places like Iran, which have an extremely high birth rate, and it's clear that the United Kingdom's population isn't going to make any big jumps in size anytime soon.

Additionally, public health and education are handled remarkably well in the country, despite continued political debate on the future of both. However, that does not mean that the United Kingdom does not have issues that require attention. These include not only internal tensions but also the question of immigration.

Multiple Nations

The United Kingdom is a truly unique political unit. It has one central government but is comprised of multiple nations. Some of these nations, such as Scotland and Wales, have a wide range of powers. For example, Scotland has made university education free for all Scots, but still forces people from other parts of the United Kingdom to pay! Other groups have much less developed powers. Think of the Cornish, who, despite having more in common culturally with Scotland than England, are still considered part of England.

The point of all this is that different groups have widely different rights and responsibilities. Scotland provides a particularly useful example. The Scottish get to vote in not only U.K. elections for Parliament in London but also their own Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. This division of responsibilities between the Westminster government in London and the Holyrood Parliament in Edinburgh, the governing body for Scotland, has created an incredible amount of tension between the Scottish and other parts of the U.K., especially in England.

In fact, the English have themselves started to note the inconsistencies in having everyone vote for a Westminster Parliament that determines the fate of all of England, while regional parliaments determine policies for other regions. As such, they have begun to clamor for their own English Parliament. This further weakens the authority of the central government in light of the various nationalities of the country.

Immigration

It isn't only the native nationalities of the United Kingdom that have caused tensions within the country. Due to membership in the European Union, a number of non-British immigrants have arrived in the country who receive the same rights and protections as a British citizen. With the expansion of the European Union into Eastern Europe, many of these immigrants are from the East, where economic conditions do not yet match those of the United Kingdom. To this end, the new immigrants have been a continuing source of competition for jobs with economically disadvantaged Britons. Such economic competition has been a major driver for increased nationalism among native-born British people, some of which is tinged with an increasing amount of racism.

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