The United Kingdom is an ethnically diverse society. The largest ethnic group in the United Kingdom is White British, followed by Asian British. Ethnicity in the United Kingdom is formally recorded at the national level through a census. The 2011 United Kingdom census recorded a reduced share of White British people in the United Kingdom from the previous 2001 United Kingdom census. Factors that are contributing to the growth of minority populations are varied in nature, including differing birth rates and Immigration.
Indigenous British people are descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled on the British Isles from the time of the last ice age until the 11th century. These populations include pre-Celts, Celtic-speaking people, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Recent genetic studies have suggested that the prehistoric Bell Beaker influx and the Anglo-Saxon migrations have had particularly significant effects on the genetic makeup of modern Britons.
The first Jews in Britain were brought to England in 1070 by King William the Conqueror, while Romani 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. The oldest Chinese community in Europe, dates back to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century. In the 19th century, there was an increase of Jewish and Irish people living in Great Britain, with many settling in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and in The East End Of London, where the ethnic dialects contributed to the formation of the Cockney dialect.
Since 1948 substantial immigration from the West Indies and the Indian Subcontinent occurred as a result of British Empire presence in these regions. Immigration started to increase in the 1950s and 1960s, wherein these groups formed their own ethnic communities. However, instances of documented and perceived racism and heavy-handed policing by the native English population has led to a number of riots, most notably in 1958, 1981, 1985 and 2011. When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, the level of migration from Western European nations increased. Migration from newer EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in a growing Eastern European presence in the UK.
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 over all diversity of the population has significantly increased as a result of "an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants". He refers to this "superdiversity".
Main article: Classification of ethnicity in the United Kingdom
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".
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||7.0|
|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|
Note: In the 2011 Census Black Africans surpassed Black Caribbeans for the first time and became the largest black group: https://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/2011-census-british-africans-now-dominant-black-group
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.
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.
See also: Criticism of multiculturalism
A poll conducted by MORI for the BBC in 2005 found that 62 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism made the UK 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 the UK 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. Research suggests that on average ethnic minorities are twice as likely to say their ethnicity is important to them than white British participants, although the extent of this difference also interacted with political beliefs.
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.
There has been a trend of under-representation of ethnic minorities in the political system in the United Kingdom, in both the British Parliament and local government in England. In 1981, the Home Affairs Select Committee report stated that an increase in ethnic minority involvement in politics will create ... special representation for ethnic minorities. Adolino noted that increase in ethnic minorities participating is an important new development in British politics. However, the problem was still apparent in 2017, and Theresa May has stated ethnic minorities are still under-represented.
The representation for ethnic minorities in Parliament started in 1987, with four ethnic minorities being elected into parliament, following the statement by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 1981. Diane Abbott was among them, who is now a prominent figure within the left of the Labour party, as a former member of the shadow cabinet. All of these were Labour members. Labour have had significantly higher minority parliamentary candidates in comparison with the Conservative party; since 1987 they have had 46 MPs and the Conservatives have had 22.
Prior to the 2010 elections, the Conservatives had 2 MPs who were minorities and this increased to 11 after the 2010 General Election. After the 2017 General Elections, 52 minority MPs were elected, shared between Labour (32) and the Conservative (19) and one from the Liberal Democrats.
Even though there has been an increase in the representation of ethnic minorities within the UK Parliament, were such representation to accurately reflect the UK population as a whole, there would be 85 ethnic minority MPs in parliament. Katwala and Ballinger have concluded that as there has been progression in the past 20 years, there could potentially be a representative Parliament by 2020 as well as an ethnic minority person as the Prime Minister.
A report by Green Park (2018) revealed across all local government sectors, there is a representation of 3.7% for minorities. London councils has the highest percentage for representation in their local councils in late 2017, 10.5%; this increased from 5.6% previously in the year. Even though representation grew in London as it has a large population for ethnic minorities, the under-representation gap is still large as 40% of Londoners are of ethnic minorities. Outside London, councils have an average of 3% minority representation. In Scotland, 3.2% are ethnic minorities in local governments which is the most representative as ethnic minorities comprise 3.32% of the population.
Since the 1980s, the number of minority councillors has been increasing over time. However, the main parties that minorities were involved in were the Labour party as both Adolino found 94.4% of minorities are involved with the Labour Party in local councils. Anwar confirmed that this is a trend that continues.
There were 35 minority councillors in London local councils in 1978 and this had increased by 1990 to 193; this was 10% of the 1,915 councillors representing 20% of London's population. Even though it was not representative, this displayed the great achievement in order to pursue representation during the time. According to a Census of Local Authority Councillors, there was 3.7% representation for minorities across all councils compared 13% of the population nationally. ; Labour continues to have the largest proportion of ethnic minority councillors with 9.2%, followed by Conservatives having 1.5%.
Anwar's statement concludes the under-representation of minorities in local councils in the UK is still relevant today. In his opinion: At local council level the representation of ethnic minority has made slow progress and it still does not reflect the nature of multi-ethnic Britain.