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Summary :: Our people and place :: Demography

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Map 1: Medway

Medway Unitary Authority (“Medway”) was formed in 1998 and consists of five main towns (Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, and Rainham) and a number of smaller towns and villages, now contained within 22 electoral wards. The built areas of the main towns have expanded over time and in places there is little demarcation between the end of one town and the beginning of another. The distance from the centre of one of these main towns to the next is between one and two miles.

The total area covered by Medway is 19,200 hectares (1 hectare is about the same size as an international rugby pitch or about one and half times the size of an international football pitch). While the towns are densely populated there are larger, much more sparsely populated rural areas in the Hoo Peninsula to the north of Medway, and the ward of Cuxton and Halling in the west. Parts of the Hoo Peninsula are within the North Kent Marshes, an environmentally significant wetlands region with several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

There is one main hospital (“Acute Trust”), Medway NHS Foundation Trust, located about halfway between Chatham and Gillingham railway stations.

Population size

There were approximately 278,556 people resident in Medway in 2019, according to figures produced by the Office for National Statistics[1].

The 2019 mid-year population estimate shows an increase of 14,631 (5.5%) from the 2011 Census (263,925), and an increase of 29,068 (11.7%) since the Census in 2001 (249,488).

Compared to England the population of Medway has a smaller proportion of people over the age of 65 years (Medway 16.1% and England 18.4%). Medway has a larger proportion between the ages of 0 and 14 years than England (19.8% and 18.1% respectively) and between the ages of 15 and 24 years (9.3% and 9.1% respectively). The population of Medway is therefore younger than the population of England overall.

Figure 1: The population structure of Medway and England in 2019
Figure 1: The population structure of Medway and England in 2019.[1]

There are slightly more females than males (male to female sex ratio: 0.98).[1]

Population within Medway

At first glance Medway may appear to be largely homogenous, but this belies considerable variation. The largest ward is Gillingham North, with 19,871 people, and the smallest ward is Cuxton and Halling, with 6,596 people.[2]

There is considerable variation in population density, ranging from 1.8 people per hectare in Peninsula to 85.3 people per hectare in Gillingham South in 2011. The median density is 37 per hectare, and Rainham Central, Watling, and Strood South have approximately this density.[3]

The least densely populated wards are Peninsula, Cuxton and Halling and Strood Rural, and the most densely populated wards are Rochester East, Chatham Central and Gillingham South.

There are also differences in the age distributions of the ward populations as described below.

Wards with a population greater than 15,000: Gillingham North, Gillingham South, Chatham Central, Strood South, Luton and Wayfield and Strood Rural. The following wards have a younger age profile with at least one third of the population aged under 25: Gillingham North, Chatham Central, River, Gillingham South, Strood South and Luton and Wayfield. Conversely these wards have the highest proportion of older people aged 65 years and over: Hempstead and Wigmore, Rainham Central, Rainham North, Peninsula and Rochester South and Horsted.[4]

Mortality and life expectancy

Approximately 2,300 Medway residents die each year (2,266 deaths registered in 2019).[5] The all-age, all-cause mortality rate is statistically significantly higher in Medway than in both England and the South East.[6]

The mortality rate among males is significantly higher than females; therefore the life expectancy is significantly higher in females than it is for males. Life expectancy from birth (a summary measure of current mortality patterns) in Medway is 3.7 years greater in females (82.6 years) than in males (78.9 years) over the period 2015 to 2019.[7]

There are also differences in life expectancy between the wards. Average life expectancy in Cuxton and Halling, Rainham Central, Hempstead and Wigmore, Lordswood and Capstone, and Rainham North is significantly greater than 14 wards including Chatham Central, Gillingham North, and Gillingham South wards. Life expectancy is highest in Cuxton and Halling at 85.7 years, and lowest in Chatham Central at 77.3 years (2015 to 2019).[7]

In every ward life expectancy is greater in females than it is in males. The greatest difference in life expectancy is between females in Rainham Central (86.9 years) and males in Chatham Central (75.2 years), a difference of 11.7 years (2015 to 2019).[7]


In 2019 there were 3,330 live births in Medway.[8] The general fertility rate (GFR), a summary measure of fertility in women between the ages of 15 and 44 years, in Medway in 2019 was 61.7 births per 1,000. This value is higher than South East region and England averages (59.2 and 58.7 births per 1,000 respectively).[9]

The GFR varies considerably between the wards, ranging from around 48 in Watling to 77 in Luton and Wayfield (using data from 2017 to 2019). The five wards with the highest GFR are Luton and Wayfield, Chatham Central, Gillingham South, Strood Rural, and Cuxton and Halling. Areas with a higher GFR will need more children services and interventions to ensure that children have a healthy start in life.[10]

Teenage pregnancy is an important problem in Medway. The under-16 and under-18 conception rates are higher in Medway than the South East and National average, although there has been a general decrease over the past few years, both at a local and National level.

Between April and June 2016 the under-18 conception rate in Medway was 22.3 conceptions per 1,000 females aged 15–17. The average under-18 conception rate in England in the same period was 19.3 conceptions per 1,000. [11]

In 2015 Medway had an under-16 conception rate of 5.3 conceptions per 1,000 females aged 13–15 years compared to 2.9 per 1,000 (South East) and 3.7 per 1,000 (England). The proportion of conceptions to young women aged 13–15 years which lead to a termination of pregnancy is lower in Medway than nationally and in the South East. Just under half (44%) of conceptions, however, result in an abortion.[12]

Teenage pregnancy is covered in more detail in the Teenage pregnancy chapter in Children -> Teenage pregnancy.


Migration to Medway has dropped since peaking around 2011/12. Natural growth remains Medway’s main source of growth, however significant outward migration from Medway has reduced the overall level of growth in recent years.

Medway had previously seen a trend of net inward flows, which made a significant contribution to Medway’s growth. However, over recent years Medway has seen an increasing net outflow of residents moving from Medway to neighbouring areas (internal migration). A lower inward flow to Medway, via a drop in international migration in the past two years, resulted in a net outflow, reducing the overall growth level in Medway significantly.[13]

The main destinations for movers out of Medway in 2018 were to: Swale, Maidstone, Tonbridge & Malling, Canterbury and Gravesham.[13]

The main origin areas of movers to Medway were: Gravesham, Maidstone, Swale, Bexley then Dartford. There was a significant flow of migrants from London, with 4,681 people moving to Medway from London. The largest flow to Medway were from areas of South East London.[13]


In Medway, the percentage of pupils at the end of Key stage 4 achieving 5 plus A* to C grades, including English and Maths GCSEs, increased from 57.8% in 2014/15 to 60% in 2015/16. Medway remains above the national average of 53.5%.[14]


The majority of the population (89.6%) in Medway are classified as White, with the next largest ethnic group being Asian or Asian British (5.2%) including Chinese.[15] The proportion of the population that is White is slightly larger than in England and slightly lower than in Kent, although these differences are not significant. There are also no significant differences in ethnicity by gender.

Figure 2: Population (%) by ethnicity. Medway and comparators.
Figure 2: Population (%) by ethnicity. Medway and comparators.
Source: Census 2011, Office for National Statistics.

Data from the January 2019 School Census shows that 80.2% of pupils in Medway are classified as White, with mixed ethnic origin being the second largest ethnic group (6.9%).[16] This may suggest a change in the overall population distribution in Medway since the 2011 Census.

Some wards are considerably more diverse than others. The three wards with the most ethnically diverse school populations are Chatham Central, Gillingham North and Luton and Wayfield. Within these wards 51.6% to 57.9% of pupils are White British and at least 42.1% of pupils are of minority ethnic origins. Rainham South, Hempstead and Wigmore and Peninsula are amongst the wards with the most homogenous school populations, as 87.9% to 88.3% of pupils are White British.[16]

Main language

The table below shows the number and proportion of people in Medway by main language spoken as reported at the time of the 2011 Census. The list has been shortened to those languages spoken by at least 500 people. Multi-lingual speakers are only counted once.[17]

  Count Percentage
All usual residents aged 3 and over 253,480 100.0
English 240,267 94.8
Polish 1,598 0.6
Panjabi 1,415 0.6
Slovak 785 0.3
Bengali (with Sylheti and Chatgaya) 694 0.3
Lithuanian 532 0.2
Russian 500 0.2
Table 1: Main languages spoken in Medway


[1]   Office for National Statistics. Mid-2019 population estimate []
[2]   Office for National Statistics. Ward Level Mid-Year Population Estimates (experimental) []
[3]   Office for National Statistics. 2011 Census: Table QS102EW - Population Density. []
[4]   Office for National Statistics. Lower layer Super Output Area population estimates []
[5]   Office for National Statistics. Death registrations summary tables - England and Wales []
[6]   Public Health England. Directly Age Standardised Mortality Rate (ASMR), Persons, All Ages []
[7]   Public Health Intelligence Team, Medway Council. Primary Care Mortality Database analysis.
[8]   Office for National Statistics. (2019). Birth summary tables in England and Wales: 2018 []
[9]   NOMIS. Live births in England and Wales: birth rates down to local authority areas
[10]   Medway Public Health Intelligence Team. Public Health Births File Analysis
[11]   Office for National Statistics. Quarterly conceptions to women aged under 18, England and Wales, April to June 2016 []
[12]   Office for National Statistics. Conception Statistics, England and Wales, 2015 []
[13]   Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation. Migration 2018
[14]   Department for Education. Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England: 2015 to 2016 []
[15]   Office for National Statistics. Table KS201EW: 2011 Census: Ethnic group, local authorities in England and Wales.
[16]   Department for Education. Schools, pupils and their characteristics []
[17]   Office for National Statistics. (2013). Table QS204EW: Main language (detailed).