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How many people are rural?

Bringing the hope of the Gospel to rural Britain

Any organisation with a remit for people and communities rural Britain needs to have at least some idea of what it means by ‘rural’ and how many people fall within its sphere of interest! Here is one take on this based on Government definitions.

The proportion of the UK population living in rural areas is 17% (based on one recent source). This approximates to a rural population of 11 million, based on this proportion and a UK population of about 62 million. England has 84% of the UK population so UK statistics will always be closest to England’s, while the smaller nations could be quite different.

The Government rural-urban classifications are complex, based on settlement size (less than 10,000) and distance from other settlements, and vary among the four nations. The threshold of 10,000 makes the definition quite ‘generous’ and may not always accord with people’s intuitive sense of what is rural.

A 2009 ONS report shows the rural numbers and proportions as slightly higher than above, as follows.

  1. UK – 19.8% (12.24 million).
  2. England – 18.6% (9.63 million) (9.6% in villages, hamlets, isolated dwellings)
  3. Wales – 33.9% (1 million) (19.6% in villages, hamlets, isolated dwellings
  4. Scotland – 18.4% (0.96 million) (6.5% in remote and very remote rural areas)
  5. N Ireland – 36.4% (0.65 million) (32.4% in villages, hamlets and open countryside)
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