Get us in your inbox

Trafalgar Square during lockdown in London
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Where did everyone go? London’s population is officially FALLING

Covid, Brexit and WFH are all contributory factors in the exodus

Chris Waywell

For the first time since 1988, London’s population is officially in decline. That’s the finding in a new report from accountants PriceWaterhouseCooper. The news might come as a surprise to anyone who was out and about in the capital pre-March 2020: packed pubs, heaving tubes, endless restaurant queues etc etc. But a combination of factors is now contributing to an exodus of people from London, with the suggestion that the city’s population could drop by as much as 300,000 over the next year. 

Obviously, Covid has had a major part to play in this. Not only has the capital seen a huge number of cases and deaths (and continues to do so), its infrastructural shortcomings have been thrown into sharp relief by the crisis: enormous pressure on the NHS and emergency services, and difficulty travelling safely on public transport. Even our parks and green spaces are overflowing. A knock-on effect has seen many more people forced to work from home, with an associated change in perception that you maybe don’t need to expensively and frustratingly commute to a physical office to have a ‘proper job’. Freelancers, I’m joking (and I’ve been there). Why continue paying London’s grotesquely inflated rents when your broadband works at the seaside?

That last point has been an underlying trend for several years. The majority of people who leave the capital do so between the ages of 30 and 40 – when they’re starting a family and/or looking to buy a home.

A report compiled by the London Assembly last August revealed that of those Londoners who said they were planning to move home, half said that they were intending to leave the city. It also (quite shockingly) suggested that one in seven residents of the capital wanted to leave it for good as a result of the Covid pandemic. 

Finally, Brexit has inevitably been a factor, with net EU migration to the UK having fallen since the 2016 leave vote. PwC forecasts that this could soon become a negative coefficient, with more EU residents leaving than coming here. Oh, and birth rates are dropping too.

The long-term effects of this are yet to be established, and obviously a lot depends on what happens in the capital over the next few months. One thing’s for sure, though: London is set to change. Don’t go anywhere!

Make the most of all that extra space:

9 art exhibitions we can’t wait to see this year.

14 simple London pleasures we’re looking forward to doing again.


    Popular on Time Out

      Latest news

        Read next