THE population of England and Wales has ballooned by 6.3 per cent to 59.6 million in the last decade, new census stats show.
It signals a slowdown in population growth over the last 10 years, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
The previous census in 2011 showed the number of people living in England and Wales rose by 7.8 per cent in the decade before.
The 2021 survey, carried out on March 21 last year, came against the backdrop of both Brexit – which has seen restrictions on immigration – and the coronavirus pandemic.
The total population across the two nations was 59,597,300, the ONS said – with 56,489,800 in England and 3,107,500 in Wales.
Figures show that the South East remains the most populous region in England with 9.3 million people, followed by London (8.8 million), while the North East was the least populous (2.6 million).
The East of England was the region that saw the biggest percentage rise in population from the 2011 to 2021 census, up 8.3 per cent from 5.8 million to 6.3 million.
The population of London grew by 7.7 per cent in a decade – up from 8.2 million to 8.8 million.
The ONS said: “Population change in certain areas may reflect how the coronavirus pandemic affected people’s choice of usual residence on census day.
“These changes might have been temporary for some and more long-lasting for others.”
More than 24 million households across England and Wales filled in census questionnaires in spring last year, with a record 89 per cent of responses completed online.
Separate figures for Northern Ireland published last month showed that the population on census day was a record 1,903,100, up by 92,200 or 5 per cent since 2011.
The new figures showed nearly one-in-five people is aged 65 and over, up from 16.4 per cent in 2011.
The ONS figures show 51.0 per cent of the population is female, and 49.0 per cent is male.
This is a change from 50.8 per cent female and 49.2 per cent male in 2011.
The census takes place across the UK every 10 years and provides the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in the country.
Its results are used by a range of organisations including governments, councils and businesses, and underpins everything from the calculation of economic growth and unemployment to helping plan schools, health services and transport links.
Data from the 2021 census for England and Wales will be published in stages over the next two years, the ONS said.
Future releases will include figures on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing plus – for the first time – information on UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The census was taken at a time when coronavirus restrictions were still in place across the UK.