This claim is accurate. NISRA has published a projection of an increased population of 77,587 people; the 65+ age profile will see the largest change.

On 12 June 2019, the BBC programme, Spend it Like Stormont, stated: “Between 2016 and 2026, the population here [Northern Ireland] is projected to grow by more than 77,000 — 96% of which will be 65 and over.”

Is the overall population of Northern Ireland projected to grow by more than 77,000 by 2026?

Over the ten-year period from mid-2016 to mid-2026, Northern Ireland’s population is projected to rise by 4.2% (i.e. 77,600 people), reaching 1,939,700 people in 2026, as stated in a report by the Northern Ireland Statistical Research Agency (NISRA).

Will 96% of this population growth be within the 65+ age profile?

Dr Ian Shuttleworth, senior lecturer in population geography at Queen’s University, declared that we were experiencing “a second demographic transition” almost a century after the first. He explained that an ageing population and declining birth rate was a common trend emerging throughout the developed world.

In order to understand the projected population figures, FactCheckNI refers to the following findings. With a projected Total Fertility Rate of 2.0 by 2024, there is a projected increase of 0.1% number of children among the overall Northern Ireland population. The projected increase in the demographic of children (aged 0-15) is low, at 600 people.

Meanwhile, there is a projected tailing off of 2,500 people in the demographic of 16-64 year olds.

Thus, with more people alive today living beyond age 65, that age segment of the population increases the most, from 16.0% in 2016 to 19.2% in 2026. This is illustrated in the following graphic by NISRA:

Overall, the growth in the population of Northern Ireland of those aged 0-64 is low (3,085 people) and those aged 65+ is high (74,502 people). Those aged 65+ represent 96% of total projected growth.

However, it can be confusing to express projected total growth in percentage terms of an age bracket. Another perspective is to examine the percentage change within these age segments.

There is a projected 0.2% increase in the number of people aged 0-64 (from 1,564,382 to 1,567,467) and a 25.0% increase in the number of people aged 65+ (from 297,755 to 372,257).

These figures are displayed in the table below:

 20162026 (projected)ChangeTotal Growth Change (%)Age Segment Change (%)
Aged 0-15388,001388,5745730.74%0.15%
Aged 16-641,176,3811,178,8932,5123.24%0.21%
Aged 65+297,755372,25774,50296.02%25.02%

The following chart visualises the very small change in demographic of children and 16-64 year olds, and the much more significant increase in over 65s:


Data from the NISRA show that over the 10-year period from mid-2016 to mid-2026, Northern Ireland’s population is projected to rise by 4.2% (i.e. 77,600 people); 96% of this growth will be represented by those aged 65 and over.

The age distribution of those aged 65+ in Northern Ireland is projected to increase from 16.0% (2016) to 19.2% (2026).

Also, the population of those aged 65+ is projected to increase by 25%, from 297,755 to 372,257.

The claim that those aged 65+ will represent 96% of projected growth is accurate. However, it is worth noting the percentage changes within age segments. Age distribution figures can provide the clearest demographic picture of all.

Image: Photo by Photographerlondon used by license

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