The changing UK population

Rich Pereira, the Deputy Director for Demography at the Office for National Statistics paints a picture of the changing milestones of adulthood and how society is shifting.

People walking with their shadows clearly visible

Despite the fact that everyone’s journey through adulthood is different, people seems to be doing many things later in life. According to Rich Pereira, in England and Wales, young adults are leaving home, getting married and retiring later in life. 50% of young people in England and Wales had moved out of their parent’s home by age 24 in 2021, up from age 21 in 2011. More men live with their parents than women; 61% of adults living with their parents at the time of Census 2021 were men.

Most though, still enter the workforce at 23-24 years old and make the most money in their 30s to 50s.

In 2022 half of adults in the UK were on the property ladder by the age of 36, around the same as in 2012. Notably, the financing of the first purchase has changed where in 2021, 80% more first-time buyers in England had help from friends and relatives, compared with 20 years ago.

According to Pereira, if times are changing, so too are traditions. Living apart before marriage is a thing of the past. The number of couples in England and Wales aged 25 to 29 who were living together, but not married or in a civil partnership rose from 56% in 2011 to 72% in 2021.

The average age at which women in England and Wales have their first babies has been steadily increasing since the 1970s. In 1970 the average age that women had their first baby was 23. In 2020, it was 29.

Since the late 1990s, more women than men have gone to university, and this gender gap has generally been getting wider over time and explains why women tend to enter full-time work later. In 2022, 130 women were accepted to study at UK universities for every 100 men. Despite this, women’s hourly wage is lower than men’s at all ages over 20 years in the UK. However, the gender pay gap is decreasing as women earned 85.7p for every £1 men made in 2023 (average for all UK employees) up from 80.2p in 2013.

More women than men provide unpaid care in England and Wales, with 12% of women aged 16 and over providing unpaid care compared with 8% of men. Women across the UK also spend more time doing unpaid housework whilst men spend more time doing paid work.