The UK population is soaring as London expands and a baby booms roars but Wales remains home to many of the most empty areas of the country, according to new findings.
Wales grew by 10,300 to hit 3.1 million as Britain outstripped its EU economic competitors in population growth, increasing in size by 419,900 to 63.7 million between 2011 and 2012.
There were 4,700 more births than deaths in Wales and the nation become home to 1,100 international migrants and 4,500 people from within the UK.
Across the UK, the country is in the throes of the biggest baby boom since 1972, with 813,200 births recorded in the past year compared to 558,800 deaths.
Of those babies, 25.9% had a foreign-born mother, in contrast to 10 years earlier where only one in six new mothers was born abroad.
The ONS said the birth increases are driven by large numbers of women in their 20s and 30s who are becoming mothers along with an increase in the number of migrant families in the UK.
Many of the migrants to the UK are from China, India, Germany, the United States, Pakistan, Poland and Australia.
Migration from overseas accounted for 517,800 of the population flow into the UK. However, 352,100 people left the country, putting net migration at 165,600 for the year.
The UK is now the third largest EU nation, behind France and Germany. The British increased of more than 400,000 compares to a boost of just 319,100 in France and a mere 166,200 in Germany.
Many more children will enjoy spending time with their grandfathers, the statistics indicate. A drop in smoking – plus improvements in treatments for circulatory illnesses – has seen more men living past the 75-year marker.
There has been an increase in this group of just over 26%, or 422,353, since mid-2001 to 2,043,034 now.
The population of the UK aged 65 and over was 10.8 million – 17% of the UK population..
The most densely populated part of the UK is London area of Islington, with 14,206 people per sq km. Cardiff is the most tightly packed area of Wales with 2,482 people per sq km; Powys is the second most empty part of the UK, with a mere 26 per km.
Wales had the third lowest annual rate of population increase 0.34%, compared to a UK increase of 0.66%. London was in pole position (1.27%), followed by the southeast (0.83%) and the east 0.77%.
England grew on average by 0.73%, far ahead of Northern Ireland (0.51%) and Scotland (0.26%).
The North East saw the slowest growth1 of any UK region at just 0.23%.
The strong population growth in London and the southeast mirrors the economic dynamism of those regions compared to other parts of the UK.
The southeast saw the biggest increase through migration within the UK (+26,100).
Last year people in the southeast had average gross weekly earnings of £640.20 while those Powys took home just £458.60, compared to just £520.70 in Wales.
Brian Morgan, professor of entrepreneurship at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said areas that offered high wages were a population “magnet”.
He said the move of people from rural Wales to areas such as Cardiff was mirrored in the movement of individuals to parts of the UK known for high incomes.
“People vote with their feet,” he said. “If there lots of economic opportunities they are going to go there to find the work, which is why the southeast is such a magnet… The problem of the southeast is finding a job which will also allow you to find somewhere to live.”
The challenge of finding an affordable home may be a key reason why many people also left London. The ONS found the capital had “the greatest outflow of people to other parts of the UK of any region, with a net loss of over 51,000 people.”
According to home.co.uk, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom property in Cardiff now stands at £504, compared to £1,683 in London and £312 in Powys.