Scotland's population is changing in ways that could transform the face of the country. While the latest figures show a recent upswing in births and migration to Scotland and a projected rise in the population over the next 25 years, in the long term Scotland's population (in common with many other developed nations) is predicted to decline and age markedly. This trend and its key implications are outlined in a new publication, 'Scotland's demographic trends: insights from Scotland's Demography Research Programme Findings'. This booklet highlights research findings from a two-year research initiative, funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Scottish Government.

In the absence of significant in-migration, Scotland's population is set to decline in the long term and these projections have important implications for the economy, public services, the labour market and the quality of everyday life.

In 2005, the ESRC and Scottish Government launched the £300,000 'Scotland's Demography Research Programme' to investigate three key aspects of Scotland's demography: migration, fertility and the impact of an ageing population. Alongside the new publication, 'Scotland's demographic trends: insights from Scotland's Demography Research Programme', a one-day seminar to disseminate key developments from the initiative was held in the Point Hotel in Edinburgh on 7 December 2007.

Some of the key findings include:

* Modelling techniques using Government Actuary Department 2004 based projections point to the adverse economic impact of a shrinking and ageing population - including slower growth in GDP and rising export price index. If fertility and mortality follow the pattern suggested in this projection, annual net in-migration of 20,000 is needed to prevent the Scottish economy shrinking.

* Contrary to previous thought, in the last few years Scotland has recorded clear net in-migration gains (i.e. more people migrating to Scotland than migrating from Scotland). Maintaining or improving this current balance of migration could prove key to addressing the challenges posed by Scotland's ageing population and projected population decline. New survey evidence suggests that significant scope exists to improve graduate retention in Scotland and to encourage Scots and non-Scots to work in Scotland.

* Fertility is Scotland is lower than elsewhere in the UK. Research shows women in Scotland leave longer gaps between first and second/subsequent children and have smaller families. But Scottish women don't set out to have smaller families than the rest of the UK. So differences in fertility appear to be responses to immediate circumstances (economic, for example) rather than longer-term intentions.

More than 20 researchers based in five academic institutions across Scotland took part in the ESRC/ Scottish Government-funded 'Scotland's Demography Research Programme'.

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1. The research briefing 'Scotland's demographic trends: insights from Scotland's Demography Research Programme' contains key findings from six individual research projects, (funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Scottish Government) undertaken between 2005 and 2006 on the topics of fertility, ageing and migration. 2007.

2. The six individual research projects are:

a. Why is fertility in Scotland lower than in England?

b. Fertility variations in Scotland.

c. Macroeconomic impacts of demographic change in Scotland.

d. Scottish graduate migration and retention: a case study of the University of Edinburgh 2000 .

e. Scottish ageing population: microsimulation of the baby boomers.

f. Scottish migration to, and return from, SE England.

3. The two-year research initiative into demographic trends in Scotland is funded as a partnership between the ESRC and the Scottish Government. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research relevant to business, the public sector and voluntary organisations. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2007-08 is £181 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at esrcsocietytoday.ac/. Further details on the Scottish Government can be found at scotland/.

4. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at esrcsocietytoday.ac/

Source: Alexandra Saxon
Economic & Social Research Council

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