Our report Growing Pains aims to stimulate a serious debate by highlighting the massive challenges we face. It calls on policy makers to reclaim the agenda from extremists and start planning now how best to manage growth. Download the full report here.
The UK will need new houses, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure to support millions more people. Demand for food, water and other resources will increase and there will be increased waste and pollution. As the population ages the proportion of people in work and paying taxes will shrink, threatening funding for pensions and public services.
To manage population growth sensitively will take good leadership, investment and innovation. We need to limit growth by making effective family planning services available wherever they are needed. We need to make more efficient use of our resources, by planning better and developing new technologies. And we need to find new ways of leading fulfilling lives that consume fewer resources.
Growing Pains sets out key issues and makes seven recommendations to policy makers.
1. Plan for what’s coming. All major public infrastructure bodies should begin detailed planning to ensure there are adequate public services, infrastructure, jobs and training.
2. Use what we have more efficiently. Zero-carbon homes, maximising the use of technologies based on renewable energy, improved water efficiency, innovative ways to reduce flood risk and an efficient transport system will all be essential. Policy should direct population growth to parts of the UK best able to support it.
3. Rethink ‘growth’. The model which relies on constant population growth to keep the economy vibrant and pay for an ageing population is an unsustainable pyramid scheme. We need to come up with alternative economic models and evaluate success on the basis of well-being and quality of life, not consumption.
4. Develop new attitudes to ageing. We should value the contribution older people can make to society, and adopt a more flexible approach to family, work and education throughout people’s lives. We need more focus on healthier lives throughout old age, not just longer lives.
5. Enhance family planning. We should improve targeted education and make contraception more easily available in the UK and worldwide. In the UK 40% of pregnancies are unplanned. Globally there is a huge unmet demand for contraception with an estimated 350 million women lacking access to the full range of methods.
6. Hold an objective discussion on immigration. We need to understand the value immigration brings to the UK economy. We should also do more to reduce the economic, social and environmental pressures which cause people to migrate from their homes.
7. Have an open and sensible debate. Policy-makers need to address population head-on and reclaim the agenda from the extremist right, not ignore it because it is too controversial.
Growing Pains: Population and Sustainability in the UK, draws on research, workshops with representatives from government agencies, academia, business and voluntary sector organisations, and Forum for the Future’s expertise in sustainability.
* The Office for National Statistics National Population Projections, 2009, projects that the UK population will rise from an estimated 61.4 million in 2008 to 70.6 million in 2030.
Forum for the Future calls for 'open' population debate, BBC, 9th June 2010
Britain must debate rising population - report, Reuters, 9th June 2010
The planet needs family planning, The Guardian, 9th September 2010
Britain will struggle to handle 'catastrophic' population growth unless changes are made, Daily Mail, 9th June 2010
People boom to devour region, Western Daily Press, 10th June 2010
UK population growth needs to be reversed, Ecologist, 9th June