Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom
People from various ethnicities reside in the United Kingdom. Intermittent migration from Northern Europe has been happening for millennia, with other groups such as British Jews also well established. Since World War II, substantial immigration from the New Commonwealth, Europe, and the rest of the world has altered the demography of many cities in the United Kingdom.
Historically, British people were believed to be descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century; the pre-Celts, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Some recent genetic analysis has suggested that the majority of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population arrived between 15,000 and 7,600 years ago and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people, although there is no consensus amongst geneticists.
The first Jews in Britain were brought to England in 1070 by King William the Conqueror, while Roma in Britain have been documented since the 16th century. The UK has a history of small-scale non-European immigration, with Liverpool having the oldest Black British community, dating back to at least the 1730s during the period of the African slave trade, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century.
Since 1948 substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups.
Sociologist Steven Vertovec argues that whereas "Britain's immigrant and ethnic minority population has conventionally been characterized by large, well-organized African-Caribbean and South Asian communities of citizens originally from Commonwealth countries or formerly colonial territories", more recently the level of diversity of the population has increased significantly, as a result of "an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants". He terms this "superdiversity".
Official classification of ethnicity
The 2001 UK Census classified ethnicity into several groups: White, Black, Asian, Mixed, Chinese and Other. These categories formed the basis for all National Statistics ethnicity statistics until the 2011 Census results were issued. The 1991 UK census was the first to include a question on ethnicity. A number of academics have pointed out that the ethnicity classification employed in the census and other official statistics in the UK since 1991 involve confusion between the concepts of ethnicity and race. David I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel argue that this is the case in many censuses, and that "the case of Britain is illuminative of the recurring failure to distinguish race from ethnicity". User consultation undertaken for the purpose of planning the 2011 census revealed that some participants thought the "use of colour (White and Black) to define ethnicity is confusing or unacceptable".
Population by ethnicity
According to the 2011 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was as set out in the table below.
|Ethnic group||Population (2011)||Percentage of total population|
|White or White British: Total||55,010,359||87.1|
|Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller: Total||63,193||0.1|
|Asian or Asian British: Indian||1,451,862||2.3|
|Asian or Asian British: Pakistani||1,174,983||1.9|
|Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi||451,529||0.7|
|Asian or Asian British: Chinese||433,150||0.7|
|Asian or Asian British: Other Asian||861,815||1.4|
|Asian or Asian British: Total||4,373,339||6.9|
|Black or Black British: Total[note 1]||1,904,684||3.0|
|Mixed or Multiple: Total||1,250,229||2.0|
|Other Ethnic Group: Total||580,374||0.9|
- For the purpose of harmonising results to make them comparable across the UK, the ONS includes individuals in Scotland who classified themselves in the "African" category (29,638 people), which in the Scottish version of the census is separate from "Caribbean or Black" (6,540 people), in this "Black or Black British" group. The ONS note that "the African categories used in Scotland could potentially capture White/Asian/Other African in addition to Black identities".
The British government recognises the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Cornish peoples as national minorities under the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which the UK signed in 1995 and ratified in 1998.
Multiculturalism and integration
This article needs to be updated.(September 2016)
It is estimated that in 1950 there were no more than 20,000 non-white residents in the United Kingdom, mainly in England and almost all born overseas. With considerable migration after the Second World War making the UK an increasingly ethnically and racially diverse state especially in London, race relations policies have been developed that broadly reflect the principles of multiculturalism, although there is no official national commitment to multiculturalism. This model has faced criticism on the grounds that it has failed to sufficiently promote social integration, although some commentators have questioned the dichotomy between diversity and integration that this critique presumes. It has been argued that the UK government has since 2001, moved away from policy characterised by multiculturalism and towards the assimilation of minority communities.
Attitudes to multiculturalism
A poll conducted by MORI for the BBC in 2005 found that 62 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism made Britain a better place to live, compared to 32 percent who saw it as a threat. Ipsos MORI data from 2008 by contrast, showed that only 30 per cent saw multiculturalism as making Britain a better place to live, with 38 per cent seeing it as a threat. 41 per cent of respondents to the 2008 poll favoured the development of a shared identity over the celebration of diverse values and cultures, with 27 per cent favouring the latter and 30 per cent undecided.
A study conducted for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2005 found that in England, the majority of ethnic minority participants called themselves British, whereas indigenous English participants said English first and British second. In Wales and Scotland the majority of white and ethnic minority participants said Welsh or Scottish first and British second, although crucially they saw no incompatibility between the two identities.
Other research conducted for the CRE found that white participants felt that there was a threat to Britishness from large-scale immigration, the claims that they perceived ethnic minorities made on the welfare state, a rise in moral pluralism and perceived political correctness. Much of this frustration was vented at Muslims rather than minorities in general. Muslim participants in the study reported feeling victimised and stated that they felt that they were being asked to choose between Muslim and British identities, whereas they saw it possible to be both.
- British people
- Demography of the United Kingdom
- Foreign-born population of the United Kingdom
- Historical immigration to Great Britain
- Immigration to the United Kingdom since 1922
- Languages of the United Kingdom
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