Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by shipwrecked English colonists heading for Virginia. Self-governing since 1620, Bermuda is the oldest and most populous of the British Overseas Territories. Vacationing to the island to escape North American winters first developed in Victorian times. Tourism continues to be important to the island's economy, although international business has overtaken it in recent years. Bermuda has also developed into a highly successful offshore financial center. A referendum on independence from the UK was soundly defeated in 1995.
In 2010, the civilian non-institutional population stood at 64,237 and had increased by 4% since the previous census in 2000. This represents 2 percentage points less growth in the 2010 population than the 6% growth recorded between 1991 and 2000. A combination of trends has led to slowing population growth in Bermuda; namely, declining birth rates, increasing emigration and increased life expectancy. The degree to which a population grows or declines is based on the difference between natural increase (births minus deaths) and net migration (immigration minus emigration). This calculation is known as the ‘balancing equation.’
Bermuda relies heavily on imported products as few goods are manufactured on the island. In fact, the value of the island’s exports is only 2% of its imports. Imports increased by 38% from 2003 to 2007 and then declined by 23% from 2007 to 2012. The reduction in imports coincides with the start of Bermuda’s recession which resulted in the contraction in the number of filled jobs and increased emigration.