The figures in this post give an inaccurate view of Britain

11th Feb 2020

Claim

The population of Britain is 51 million.

Conclusion

The population of the UK in mid-2018 was 66.4 million.

 

21 million people in Britain are retired.

 

We don’t know for certain but a maximum of around 11.8 million people in the UK are retired.

 

19 million people are at school.

 

The number of school pupils in the UK is around 10 million.

 

Two million people are unemployed.

 

1.3 million people are unemployed in the UK.

 

Four million people are employed by the government.

 

5.4 million people were recorded as working in the public sector across the UK in September 2019, of which 3.2 million are employed by central government.

 

Three million people work in local counties and boroughs.

 

Two million people were recorded as working in local government across the UK in September 2019.

 

One million people are in the armed forces.

 

There are around 193,000 UK armed forces personnel, of which 132,000 are full-time trained personnel.

 

620,000 people are in hospital.

 

There is no clear measurement of how many people are in hospital at one time, however, figures that give an indication are significantly lower than this.

 

379,998 people are in prison.

 

The prison population of the UK was 92,500 in 2018.

 

The British workforce is two people.

 

32 million people were estimated to be in work in 2019.

Claim 1 of 10

A Facebook post that makes a series of claims about the British population has been shared by multiple accounts hundreds of times. 

The post is obviously intended to be humorous and has been understood as such by most of the commenters. It’s also been circulating online for decades.

However, some readers do seem to have taken the post seriously so, to set the record straight, all the figures in the post are inaccurate. 

The post claims that the population of the UK is 51 million. In mid-2018 the population was 66.4 million. 

The post claims that 21 million people in Britain are retired. We don’t know the exact figure but it isn’t this high.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that there are 10.7 million people in the UK aged 65 or above who are “economically inactive” (meaning they are not working or seeking work due to things like retirement and ill health).

Also, there are 1.1 million people aged under 65 who have taken early retirement. That means there is a maximum of 11.8 million retired people in the UK.   

The post says that 19 million people are in school when it’s actually around 10 million and it also says that there are two million unemployed people when there are 1.3 million

The post claims that four million people are employed by the government and that three million are employed by counties and borough councils. 5.4 million people are employed in the public sector, of which 3.2 million are employed by central government and two million by local government.

The post also claims that there are one million people in Britain’s armed forces which is a big exaggeration—there are around 193,000 personnel in the armed forces, of which 132,000 are full-time trained personnel. 

The post claims 620,000 people are in hospital, but statistics aren’t published on this so there’s no way of knowing for sure. What we can say is that on 113,000 overnight beds and 11,000 day-only beds were occupied in the English NHS according to the latest data from April to June 2019. 

The post claims that there are 379,998 people in prison. The figure is actually much lower, with 92,500 people recorded in prison in 2018.

The post then humorously claims this means the workforce in the UK is two people; in September to November 2019 the ONS recorded just over 32 million people in employment in the UK, just under half of the population.

We aim for our fact checks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email team@fullfact.org.

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