Leeds in the Noughties: The city's changing population

The first decade of the new millennium ends this week and, 10 years on, Leeds is a very different place to the one which stood on the cusp of a new age as 1999 drew to a close.

To mark the end of the Noughties, all this week the Yorkshire Evening Post is looking at the ways our lives in Leeds have changed over the decade.

Neil Hudson looks at Leeds's changing population throughout the Noughties.

Leeds's population is growing at twice the national average, according to estimates – and there are more young people living here than ever before.

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There has also been an influx of migrants and as a consequence a mini-baby boom, meaning there is now a shortage of school places.

The ebb and flow of populations is hard to predict but one thing is clear: Leeds is a magnet for young people, families and migrants wanting to make a home for themselves.

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Conversely, the number of older people living in the city is on the decline, as those with enough money choose to move to more sparsely-populated areas, like the Dales, the Lakes and the coast.

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Leeds has a growing immigrant community. Some 1,500 people moved into the city in 2000-1. That rose to 6,800 in 2007-8.

But while new immigrant communities are forming, older, most established ones are dwindling.

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One community which has suffered a decline in recent years is the Jewish community.

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Sheila Saunders is chief executive of the Leeds Jewish Housing

Association, which provides rented and shared-ownership houses to those in need.

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She said the city's Jewish population had shrunk significantly in recent years.

"It's always difficult to know exactly how big your community is and whether we are an ethnic minority or a faith-based community but I think the Jewish community manages to traverse both, because people have assimilated over three or four hundred years.

"Certainly in the 1940s and 1950s, the Jewish community numbered between 20,000 and 25,000 but at the time of the last Census it was about 9,000.

"The main reason for this is mobility. There is a trend which can be observed and it goes back to the machine workers in the 1950s making sure their kids were educated. With education comes mobility and you can see this in action as families move from the inner city up

Harrogate Road.

"Ultra orthodox Jews will leave Leeds to live in London and Salford in

Manchester. There is no Jewish high school in Leeds. If you are ultra

religious, that's a reason for moving out.

"From our point of view, the people we help are those who, traditionally, would have been helped out by their extended families, so we are talking about older people who lack mobility.

"Some younger Jews have moved back to Israel but that has slowed down."

There are now 771,000 people living in Leeds and by 2031, there will be almost one million.

Professor of migration and regional development John Stillwell, from the University of Leeds's School of Geography, said the rise in the number of young people is partly down to the expansion of higher education in the city.

He said: "We have an ageing population in the UK, but I suspect the increase in younger people in Leeds is due to the expansion of higher education. Coupled with that, it is not uncommon for people reaching retirement age to move out of the region."

He added: "In general, the UK population has been very stable for a long time. In the last few years, there has been an increase in fertility rates and half of that increase has been put down to ethnic minorities.

"Some of that is due to the lag in ethnic minorities assimilating to the norms of the host society.

"Many places are now in the mire in terms of having a lack of school places, because for years we had a falling population and schools were closed and now we are seeing fertility levels rising, there just aren't

enough places to go round."

But he added a note of caution: "We think the population for Leeds is over-estimated by something like 20,000. This is due to the way the data is collected."

The problem was acknowledged by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in December 2006, when the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, said in evidence: "We do not have the ability to measure accurately at present the size of the population."

The problem, in short, is not counting births and deaths but the movement of people from place to place, particularly those coming into the city from abroad.

Prof Stillwell said: "We know a lot about internal migration, we do not know as much about international migration. When people enter the country, they are given a National Insurance number but those are not taken back if they leave."

However, as with most things, populations estimates are tinged with politics.

"You won't find Leeds City Council quibbling about an over-estimate of 20,000 in the population, because that means they get more money from the Government."