Here are five maps showing how London’s population is changing

London’s population is changing at a rapid pace. But how much do we know about the changing face of the city? Where do new Londoners come from, and where do Londoners who leave the city go to? What are the most popular languages? Which areas are seeing the biggest influx?

To answer these burning questions and more, here are five maps which paint a picture of the Londoners of today.

Foreign arrivals

London has long been an attractive destination for people from outside the UK to come to, seeking work and opportunity.

They need a national insurance number (NINo) to legally work in this country – and registration data shows how the numbers and location of these has changed over time.

Total registrations fell 16 per cent in the last year, to just over 58,600, with a divergence in the number of EU and non-EU registrations. Though NINo registrations from the EU increased 11 per cent in the last decade, since 2014 they’ve fallen by 15 per cent. In contrast, whereas non-EU registrations have fallen by 45 per cent in the last decade, the last four years have seen an 11 per cent increase.

 

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While some areas of London have remained a hotspot for new arrivals over this whole period, others have seen their fortunes fade. Outer North and East London boroughs have seen the largest percentage declines in NINo registrations – with the highest falls in Redbridge (-27.6), Harrow (-23.5) and Newham (-22.9). Lambeth and the City fell by only -1.9 and -4.1 respectively, the lowest falls recorded.

London’s languages

With an increasingly foreign-born population residing in the capital, London’s children are more likely than ever to speak English as a second language at home. And the change has been happening faster in some areas of the city than others.

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The picture is diverse across the capital. Comparing 2017 to a decade earlier, outer London boroughs show a more significant change in the proportion of primary school students who speak English as a second language, albeit often from a low base.

Though the gap has largely narrowed by the time they reach secondary school, pupils with English as a second language (EAL) often lag behind at primary level. Language needs represent a challenge to primary teaching, particular given that many are facing funding cuts.

A growing population

Population projections – though often wrong – anticipate that London’s population will continue to grow quickly well into the middle of the century.

London’s population is undergoing significant changes, with internal population churn combining with newly arriving residents to create a patchwork of areas with falling, slowly increasing and rapidly growing populations.

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Some of the areas with highest forecast growth include along the Thames and Lee Valley in East London – where new developments are set to transform whole districts – as well as other locations across the capital where large developments will house future Londoners. While no borough is forecast to see a fall in its population over the next decade, parts of Bromley, Hillingdon and Barnet are likely to see the slowest growth.

A shifting population

While London welcomes many new arrivals each year; it also bids farewell to those departing. The next map shows where Londoners are moving from, and where they are choosing to move to. While 416,000 Londoners moved across London’s borough boundaries, 336,000 people left the capital in the last year, and only 230,000 people from the rest of their country made their home here.

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Undeterred by a 19 per cent squeeze on new starter wages since the financial crisis, university towns such as Oxford, Cambridge and Exeter, continue to feed a high number of graduates into the capital, as do Birmingham, Brighton and Bristol. The map also shows an outflow of residents from London’s suburbs, with commuter boroughs to the east of London such as Dartford and Thurrock faring the worst, with net losses of over 3,000 people.

An ageing population

While London is a young city – and will continue to be so, relative to the rest of the UK – it is growing older; with the number of people aged 65 set to grow to 1.2 million by 2024. This will have big implications for service delivery, particularly healthcare and social care, but also accessibility, with only 27 per cent of London’s tube stations currently step-free.

While all boroughs are ageing (as measured by the change in the old age dependency ratio), those to the North and West show the most significant increases. In Harrow, 15 per cent of residents are aged 65 and over, compared to just 9 per cent in Barking and Dagenham.

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Much of London policy is predicated on continued population growth. Yet London’s population grew at just 0.6 per cent in the year to mid-2017, its slowest rate in over a decade, and almost half the growth rate of the year previously.

Expectations of continued growth are reflected in yearly projections, and though the city isn’t yet shrinking, its growth is falling short of forecasts, with most recent figures 0.9 per cent lower than expected.


London’s population is in flux, yet it is far from a city of transients, with 70 per cent of Londoners living here for at least a decade – and London identity as strong as it was 40 years ago.

Erica Belcher is research assistant at Centre for London, on whose blog this article first appeared. You can follow her on Twitter, if you wish.

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In South Africa's cities, evictions are happening despite a national ban

An aerial view shows a destroyed house in Lawley, south of Johannesburg, on April 20, 2020. The city has been demolishing informal structures on vacant land despite a moratorium on evictions. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

On the morning of 15 July, a South African High Court judge ruled that the city of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit had illegally evicted a man when it destroyed the shack where he was living.

That afternoon, the Anti-Land Invasion Unit was out again, removing shacks in another informal settlement.

Evictions were banned in South Africa for nine weeks, after the national government placed the country under a strict Covid-19 lockdown in late March. At present, eviction orders are automatically suspended until the country moves to a lower “alert level” and can only be carried out with a special order from a judge.

Yet major cities including Cape Town, Johannesburg and eThekwini (created through the merger of Durban with several surrounding communities), have continued to use municipal law enforcement agencies and private security companies to remove people from informal housing. In many cases those operations have been conducted without a court order – something required under regular South African law.

Around 900 people were evicted from three informal settlements in eThekwini during the eviction ban, according to the Church Land Programme, a local NGO. Its director, Graham Philpott, says it’s also aware of evictions in other informal settlements.

While evictions aren’t a “new experience” in these communities, the NGO released a report on lockdown evictions because they were “so explicitly illegal”. “There was a moratorium in place,” Philpott says, “and the local municipality acted quite flagrantly against it. There’s no confusion, there’s no doubt whatsoever, it is illegal. But it is part of a trend where the eThekwini municipality has acted illegally in evicting the poor from informal settlements.”

Evictions also took place in Cape Town and Johannesburg during so-called “hard lockdown” according to local activists. In eThekwini and other municipalities, the evictions have continued despite restrictions. In Cape Town, authorities pulled a naked man, Bulelani Qholani, from his shack. That incident, which was captured on video, drew condemnation from the national government and four members of the Anti-Land Invasion unit were suspended. 


The cities say they’re fighting “land invasions” – illegal occupations without permission from the land owner.

“Land invasions derail housing and service projects, lead to the pollution of waterways, severely prejudice deserving housing beneficiaries and cause property owners to lose their investments over night,” Cape Town’s executive mayor, Dan Plato said in a statement. (Plato has also claimed that Qholani did not live in the shack he was pulled from and that he disrobed when municipal authorities arrived.)

South African municipalities often claim that the shacks they destroy are unoccupied. 

If they were occupied, says Msawakhe Mayisela, a spokesman for the eThekwini municipality, the city would get a court order before conducting an eviction. “Everything we’re doing is within the ambit of the law,” Mayisela says. But “rogue elements” are taking advantage of Covid-19, he added.

“We fully understand that people are desperately in need of land, but the number of people that are flocking to the cities is too much, the city won’t be able to provide housing or accommodation for everyone overnight,” he says. 

While eThekwini claims to be a caring city, local activists say the evictions show otherwise.

In one case, 29 women were evicted from shacks during the hard lockdown. With nowhere to go, they slept in an open field and were arrested by the South African Police Service for violating the lockdown, Philpott says.

“These evictions are dehumanizing people whose dignity is already compromised in many ways,” says S’bu Zikode, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a community organization whose Zulu name translates to “the people of the shacks”. 

“It has reminded us that we are the people that do not count in our society.”

Municipal law enforcement and private security contractors hired by cities regularly fire rubber bullets, or even live ammunition, at residents during evictions. Some 18 Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed since the organization was founded in 2005, Zikode says, most by the eThekwini Land Invasion Unit and Metro Police.

(Mayisela says that if city employees have broken the law, Abahlali baseMjondolo can file a complaint with the police. “There is no conclusive evidence to the effect that our members have killed them,”  he says.)

Other Abahlali baseMjondolo activists have been killed by what Zikode calls “izinkabi,” hitmen hired by politicians. Two eThekwini city councillors were sentenced to life in prison 2016 after they organized the killing of Thuli Ndlovu, an Abahlali baseMjondolo organizer. A member of the Land Invasion Unit who is currently facing a charge of attempted murder after severely injuring a person during an eviction remains on the job, Zikode says.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution is intended to protect the public from arbitrary state violence and guarantees a right to housing, as well as due process in evictions. But for Zikode, the South African constitution is a “beautiful document on a shelf”.

“For the working class and the poor, it’s still difficult to have access to court. You’ve got to have money to get to court,” he says. 

The actions by municipal law enforcement are breaking down social trust, says Buhle Booi, a member of the Khayelitsha Community Action Network, a community group in the largest township in Cape Town.

“There’s a lack of police resources and those very few police resources that they have, they use to destroy people’s homes, to destroy people’s peace, rather than fighting crime, real criminal elements that we see in our society,” Booi says.

For him, it’s a continuation of the practices of the colonial and apartheid governments, pushing poor people, most of whom are Black, to the periphery of cities.

Around one-fifth of South Africa’s urban population live in shacks or informal dwellings, according to a 2018 report by SERI. Many more live in substandard housing. City governments maintain that the shacks destroyed during anti-land invasion operations are unfinished and unoccupied. But Edward Molopi, a research and advocacy officer at SERI, says that this claim is an attempt to escape their legal obligations to get a court order and to find alternative accommodation for affected people. 

The roots of the current eviction crisis go back to apartheid, which barred non-white people from living in cities. Between the 1940s and 1970s, tens of thousands of people were forcibly relocated from neighbourhoods like Johannesburg’s Sophiatown and Cape Town’s District Six to remote townships.

In the 26 years following the end of apartheid, deepening economic inequality and rampant unemployment have limited access to formal housing for millions of South Africans. Government housing programs have mostly focused on building small stand-alone homes, often on the peripheries of cities far from jobs and amenities.

While these well-intentioned projects have built millions of homes, they’ve failed to keep up with demand, says Marie Huchzermeyer, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Government-funded housing projects “will never on it’s own be enough,” she says. “It has to be accompanied by land release.”

Government policies call for the “upgrading” of informal settlements and the formalization of residents’ occupation. But “there are still very, very, very few projects” of that nature in South Africa, Huchzermeyer says. “Even if it’s an informal settlement that’s been around for 20 years, there still seems to be a political wish to punish people for having done that.” The government wants people to go through the formal process of being given a house, she says – and for them to be thankful to the government for providing it.

At the municipal level, change will require “real leadership around informal settlement upgrading and around ensuring that land is available for people to occupy,” she says. 

Despite the end of enforced racial segregation, spacial apartheid remains a factor in South Africa. There are few mixed-income neighbourhoods. Those who can afford to often live behind walls in sprawling low-density suburbs, while the poor live in overcrowded slums and apartment buildings.

The creation of the apartheid city “didn't happen by chance,” says Amira Osman, a professor of architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology. “It was a deliberate, structured approach to the design of the city. We need a deliberate, structured approach that will undo that.”

Since last fall, Johannesburg’s Inclusionary Housing Policy has required developments of 20 or more units to set aside 30% of those units for low-income housing.

The policy, which faced significant opposition from private developers, won’t lead to dramatic change, says Sarah Charlton, a professor at the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies, but it is “an important and significant step.”

Zikode isn’t optimistic that change will come for shack dwellers, however.

“People in the high positions of authority pretend that everything is normal,” he says. “They pretend that everyone is treated justly, they pretend that everyone has homes with running water, that everyone has a piece of land – and hide the truth and the lies of our democracy.”

Jacob Serebrin is a freelance journalist currently based in Johannesburg. Follow him on Twitter.