United Kingdom - Statistics & Facts

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, more commonly referred to as the United Kingdom or the UK, is a unitary state consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are also three Crown Dependencies in nearby waters, and 14 Overseas Territories across the globe. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the United Kingdom was the world’s foremost superpower, with roughly a quarter of the world’s landmass and population under the dominion of the British Empire. Throughout the 20th century, the British Empire gradually dissolved, and countries such as Germany, the U.S., and USSR gained more international influence; however, the UK remains one of the world’s leading economies, with considerable political, cultural, and technological influence. Since 2016, Brexit, i.e. the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, has been the most influential factor in the UK’s foreign policy, and adaptation to life outside of the EU has had a significant impact domestically. Thus far, most consider the economic and bureaucratic fallout of Brexit to have been overwhelmingly negative, it has put strain on the UK’s political relationship with the European trading bloc, and trade barriers have resulted in shortages or price hikes for certain goods and services. Nonetheless, the UK will have a higher level of economic autonomy going forward, and it remains to be seen whether any long-term benefits will outweigh the obstacles and challenges that the UK has faced until now.

Demographics

In 2021, the United Kingdom had a total population of roughly 67 million people. England has, by far, the largest share of this population at 57 million; followed by Scotland with 5.5 million, then Wales with 3.2 million, and Northern Ireland with 1.9 million. The UK’s crude birth rate is around 11 births per 1,000 population, while the death rate is around nine per 1,000 population, meaning that the UK has a very small rate of natural increase. In 2019, the UK’s total fertility rate was just over 1.6 births per woman. London is, by far, the largest city in the United Kingdom, with a population of 9.3 million people. Manchester is the second largest city at 2.7 million people, and Birmingham third with 2.6 million, while Belfast is the largest of the executive capitals. The largest non-British population in the UK is from Poland, with a population of 815,000 people, followed by Romania at 404,000; due to Brexit a large number of European migrants have left the UK, therefore these proportions may change in the coming years. There are also significant South Asian, African, and Caribbean populations in the UK, from former-colonies of the British Empire, and these groups make up the majority of the UK’s non-white population. The UK generally ranks among the top 10 percent of countries in terms of demographic development, and ranks 13th on the latest Human Development Index.

Economy

The United Kingdom also has one of the world’s most developed economies. It’s GDP of 3.1 trillion U.S. dollars makes it the fifth largest economy in the world, and the second largest in Europe. The country’s currency is the British Pound Sterling (GBP), with the Bank of England as the central bank. The UK is a net importer of goods, with total import values over 50 percent higher than exports in 2020. In recent years, the UK has fallen outside of the top 10 leading exporters, and is now ranked 12th in the world, and sixth in Europe. The European Union is the UK’s largest trading partner, however the U.S. receives the largest share of any individual country. Between 2016 and 2021 the national debt rose from 2.5 to 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars, however in 2019, unemployment had reached its lowest rate in decades before the covid pandemic hit.

Politics

The UK is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, in which the ultimate legislative power is held by the centralized Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is the head of the executive branch, while the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, serves as head of state in a more ceremonial capacity. Next to the central government of the UK, three of the four member countries, namely Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, have their own devolved national administrations. The three national administrations all consist of an executive body and a legislative institution with different levels of authority. Power is delegated to the devolved administrations by the central parliament and can theoretically be withdrawn or limited at any time. General elections in the UK use a First Past the Post system to determine the 650 Members of Parliament, and the leader of the party or coalition with the most seats is usually named Prime Minister. Parliamentary sessions or terms generally last for five years, although early elections can be called with two thirds support in a vote in the House of Commons. The minimum voting age in the UK is 18 years, although it is 16 years in local elections in Scotland.

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