The UK Television Landscape Report

State of the nation

26 July 2016

The Establishment Survey provides a rich source of information about the UK’s demographic makeup and household composition. The data indicates how the proportion of the population that is over 60 has grown, and is likely to continue to grow. It also shows that households are slowly becoming more complex and more likely to be multi-generational. Falling unemployment may have played a part in the reduction in viewing we have seen in recent years.

Age and gender

We read a lot about our ageing population. The Establishment Survey shows us how the UK is growing older: the fastest growing age groups are those over 50.

The 70+ cohort has grown 13% since 2010, more than any other age band. People over 60 now comprise 23.1% of the total population, compared with 22% in Q1 2010.

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Increasing life expectancy is a significant factor in the ageing of the population profile. Another major contributory factor is the ripple effect of the post-war baby boom. The UK birth rate spiked dramatically straight after the war. Birth rates dropped back briefly in the late 1940s, but then started to climb again in the late 1950s to peak once more in the mid-1960s. Rates only began to drop again in the early 1970s. The increase in the 50-59 and 60-69 year-old cohorts shown above is the impact of the 1960s demographic wave passing through. If we focus on the age group over 60, the wave will not abate until the early 2030s. The grey audience is likely to continue to grow for the next 15 years at least.

(An interactive chart is available here.)

Older viewers have more time to watch television and are less readily beguiled by the charms of social media, so in terms of television viewing habits, this is likely to mean more hours spent watching television, and a continuing search for programming which will appeal to the tastes of an older audience.

Female life expectancy is significantly longer than male (according to ONS, female life expectancy is currently 83.2 years, while male expectancy is 79.5 years). This means that older population cohorts contain a significantly higher percentage of women than men. Birth rates for men are slightly higher than for women (1.05:1), so for the 0-9 and 10-19 groups there are more males than females.

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Household composition

The Establishment Survey is particularly helpful in offering insight into changing demographics at a household level. The number of households is growing slowly but steadily, in line with growth in the overall population. Growth in the number of households has come from larger households in particular. This means the average number of people per household has increased from 2.28 to 2.33 since 2010; however, households with either one or two members (i.e. below the average) comprise nearly two thirds (65%) of the total.

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One of the factors driving the growth in larger households is children staying longer at home. We can see this in the Establishment Survey results when we look at how the universe of households is changing according to lifestage: the greatest increase is in post-family households, i.e. households where the head of household is over 45 and in employment, and there are no children under 16.

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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of 15-34 year olds living with their parents increased from 36% to 40% between 1996 and 2015. The same trend can be seen in the growth in multi-familyhouseholds: for example, a home in which the daughter has stayed with her parents and her partner has moved in with her. This is the fastest growing type of household in the ONS classification, growing by 50% between 2005 and 2015. They are still, however, a small proportion of total households, accounting for just one in a hundred.

The growth in multi-generation households is likely to be caused in part by the increasing challenges young people face getting on the property ladder, particularly in regions like London and the south where property prices have significantly outstripped income growth.

More independent teenagers/young adults in the home may mean there are more pointed debates about who controls the remote. Alternatively, this could be the catalyst for households to watch different programmes simultaneously on a variety of screens. It is one more reason for platforms and channel providers to make programming seamlessly available across multiple devices.

Employment status

The Establishment Survey can also tell us about patterns of employment. One striking feature of the employment landscape is the variation by gender.

The majority of those in full-time work or actively seeking work are male; the majority in part-time work, not seeking work or retired are female. The only category where the sexes are nearly equally balanced is people in full-time education. The chart below shows the variation from a 50:50 gender distribution (the actual gender split in Q1 2016 is 50.7 female: 49.3 male).

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If we break down the employment figures by age, the source of the variation becomes clearer. The proportion of women in full-time paid work actually decreases between the ages of 35 and 44, when it is at its highest for men. For this age group, women are just over half (59%) as likely to be in full-time employment. By contrast, between the ages of 35 and 44, women are 8 times more likely to have a part-time job than men of the same age.

Women tend to retire earlier: 30% of women categorise themselves as retired age 55 to 64, compared to 20% of men. However, ONS figures tell us that the number of people (both men and women) aged under 65 who are retired is falling steadily. It has declined by 27% since 2011, as people prepare for a future in which their working lifespan stretches out longer.

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The pattern of employment has changed significantly over time. If we index employment status since Q1 2011 (a change in the questionnaire at the end of 2010 means we cannot compare results looking further back), the past four years have seen a steady upward trend in full-time paid employment for both men and women. According to the ONS, the rate of employment is now at its highest since the early 1970s, when figures began to be collected on their current basis. This has been matched by a parallel reduction in the numbers unemployed.9

For men, there was a one-off increase in the number of unemployed not seeking work during early 2011. This finding may be influenced by changes that were made to the Jobseeker’s Allowance by the coalition government in 2011; these placed greater emphasis on people’s ability to demonstrate that they were actively seeking work.

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People in work have less time to watch television, so the increase in employment is likely to have contributed to the reduction in total television viewing we have seen in the recent years.

Marital status

If we look at the age profile of the male and female population by marital status, we can see there are significant differences between men and women at either end of the age spectrum.

For the age groups below 35, a higher proportion of women are married. Women tend to get married younger than men: according to the ONS, the mean age at marriage is about 2.5 years younger for women than for men (34.3 years for women vs. 36.7 years for men in 2013, the most recent year available). This is because men tend to marry younger women; this is a consistent pattern which the ONS can trace back to the 1970s.

For older, 65+ age groups, a higher proportion of men are married. Men tend to die earlier, leaving a significantly higher proportion of women widowed.

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The overall proportion of the adult population over 16 which is married or living as married has remained broadly unchanged over the past five years, at just below 60%. We know from the ONS that the rate of formal marriage has been relatively stable over this period, although in the longer term, rates of marriage have been declining steadily: the rate of marriage per thousand unmarried people has declined from its post-war peak around 70 in 1970 to just over 20 today, a drop of nearly 70%. However, rates of cohabitation (i.e. living as married) have increased, so the impact on household formation has not been as marked as the formal marriage statistics might suggest.

There are significant regional variations in the number married or living as married: in Q1 2016, adults were nine percentage points more likely to be married/cohabit in the West and East of England than they were in London, which has the lowest rate of marriage/cohabitation in the country along with Ulster, Scotland and the North West.

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