What Is The Ethnic Makeup Of Great Britain

What is the Ethnic Makeup of Great Britain?

Great Britain, comprised of England, Scotland, and Wales, albeit with a long history of human settlement, began to become distinctly British in the late 18th to early 19th century, as its distinct ethnic identity was formed. Over the centuries, a variety of populations have entered the British Isles and shaped the ethnicity that currently exists in the United Kingdom. As well as in the current context, this historically multi-ethnic population seems to have been the norm for some considerable amount of time. As of the 2011 Census in the UK, the self-identified ethnic minority population stood at approximately 15.5 million which amounts to less than a quarter of the total population.

The English remain by far the largest ethnic group in England, accounting for approximately 85% of the population. The majority of the remaining British population is made of up other White British ethnic groups, composed of Welsh, Scottish, and smaller Northern Irish populations. Black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups amount to all non-white ethnic groups in Britain, making up approximately 14% of the total population. The data shows that the largest ethnic minority group in Britain were the Asian groups, amounting to around 6.8 million with a population of 4.8%. Following the Asian group is the sizable Black group which makes up 3% of the population or approximately 1.9 million people. The most populous of the BAME population segments in Britain are Indians, Pakistanis, the Black British group, Bangladeshis, and lastly Chinese.

It is worth noting that a significant majority of those belonging to ethnic minorities were located in various parts of England, in contrast to Scotland and Wales which exhibited significantly smaller proportions of those who identified as ethnic minorities, with 7% and 5% respectively. Within England specifically, and for the entire country, the largest minority groups were located in large metropolitan cities with London in particular hosting many – the total population within the capital city was 25.1% composed of BAME individuals.

The 2011 Census data also revealed that the UK was home to multiple other ethnicities that constituted fewer than 1% of the population and these included: the Arab, Irish, Gypsy, and any other’ category. What is interesting to note is that the current ethnic minority composition of Great Britain varies significantly to that of the 2001 Census when those ethnicities were tallied for the first time.

It can be seen in large part, that the social transformations and demographics are reflective of the historical context of Great Britain and have been largely influenced by waves of immigration. Its history is one deeply rooted in the imperial, and therefore associated with dynamics of migration through British colonies and subsequent waves of immigrants, in particular from its former colonies. For instance, this can be seen in the fact that the largest ethnic minority groups today are associated with South-Asia.

Given that the UK has had its fair share of shifts in its ethnic makeup, it also raises the question of just how this will change in the years to come. Immigration and indeed emigration continues to shape the demographic of the United Kingdom and so it remains to be seen how its ethnic landscape evolves in the future.

Varying Intergroup Relationships

Looking at the data, it is also worth noting the relationships between the ethnic groups, specifically in terms of how they are viewed when it comes to in-group and out-group dynamics. According to data from the Understanding Society Survey, many of the Asian groups identified greater levels of inter-ethnic prejudice and negative experiences than White British ethnicities. Conversely, some of the Black minority groups, such as the Caribbean minorities reported lower levels than both and in some respects, that of the majority White British population.

The interrelationship between ethnicities, particularly those related to immigrant communities, is really what helps to shape the British identity and thus its social fabric. To this end, there are challenges that exist in terms of overcoming these divides in order to better foster integration. The attitudes to minority groups have certainly improved over the years, however much of the negativity witnessed around those of certain minority backgrounds remains.

A key aspect here is the education of the public in the complexities of intergroup relationships, not just in terms of the dynamics between majority and minority groups, but importantly between minority groups themselves. This calls for a greater focus to be placed on promoting societal integration, appreciation, and understanding of each other’s races and cultures if the UK seeks to truly become a more inclusive society.

Caste System & Racial Inequality

A key factor to bear in mind is the issue of the Caste System in India which still remains today, and one which increasingly becomes more entwined with the UK. This issue is generally overlooked in Britain, where most of the Indian minority populations hail from, however this is an important matter to bear in mind in terms of understanding cultural norms and in-group relationships. It is known for instance, that there is a notion of socio-economic superiority associated with belonging to the upper castes, which is mirrored in the UK in terms of the racial hierarchy dynamics within British society.

Furthermore, is an issue which cannot be ignored in terms of tackling racial inequality which extends even towards the British-Caribbean population and those of African decent. In the UK, those of these minority backgrounds are more likely to experience higher levels of poverty, unemployment, and have less access to educational opportunities. This may also be more pervasive in certain parts of the UK with certain less populous regions of England having higher proportions of BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people.

In addition, it is known that though the current socio-economic atmosphere of the country has allowed for some advances to be made in terms of tackling racism, such instances are still far too common and we still have a long way to go in terms of rights and protections of minority groups.

Public Perception of Immigration

Given the heavy history of British empires, the issue of immigration and race has long been embedded into its politics. Immigration has long been seen as a necessary part of the scale in order to meet the demands of the political economy. However, the public discourse surrounding immigration has undeniably taken a turbulent, but at times distinctly xenophobic, turn.

Whilst certain reforms have sought to help combat controversial policies such as the “Hostile Environment” which sought to make it more difficult for those from abroad to gain entry into the UK, this has had little effect on tackling public sentiment. Polls conducted in 2017 for example showed that more than half of British population were still against immigration, a sentiment which was found to exist even amongst those who were themselves immigrants.

This is particularly concerning especially as further studies have shown, that whilst public sentiment on immigration has been increasingly critical, it has in no way been reflected in terms of policy making to reflect the needs and attitudes of ethnic minority groups. This places a particular importance on engaging with the public, in order to promote understanding of the need for immigration and to reduce the degree of racial bias.

Efforts to Tackle Ethnic Inequality

Whilst racial disparities remain a case in the UK, a number of campaigns have been established in recent years to tackle the issues of tackling racial and ethnic inequality. Most notably, the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust continues to fight racism through education and business engagement, and additionally, the Race Equality Foundation continues to focus on tackling racial inequalities among both adults and children.

The recent Black Lives Matter protests which have taken place in the UK have also had a strong impact on how race and racism is discussed in the public eye. This includes high profile campaigns such as the #PublishtheIpprhashtag which sought to challenge the lack of diversity within the media, including publishing and broadcasting.

Additionally, organizations such as Those/DiasporaUK seek to challenge negative perceptions of immigration by providing a platform for people of colour to advocate for their rights. These are just a few initiatives that have had a direct effect on the face of anti- racists efforts in the UK.

Racism & Punishment

It is however, important to note that without a justice system that takes firm and responsive action against those who commit or perpetrate any form of racial or ethnic abuse or ill-treatment, it would be difficult to create an atmosphere of inclusivity. A key factor in this is ensuring that those who are found to be in violation of the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 are properly punished.

The current sentencing guidelines for hate crime have been updated to encompass a more severe approach towards such offenders. This includes a ‘deepened assessment’ which takes into account a plethora of factors regarding the particular nature of the offence, including race or ethnicity of the victim.

Proper enforcement of the law is therefore vital in order to ensure that racial minorities do not suffer through lack of legal protection. It is for this reason that the Sentencing Council has further praised and termed their new guidelines “a victoryon the path to eliminating these types of discriminatory behaviour,”.

Role of the Media

Whilst this may be important in terms of prosecuting those who commit racial or ethnic offences, further action is also needed to help to shape public discourse in an appropriate way. It is pertinent examples, for the media to carefully consider how language is used when discussing stories of members of ethnic minorities. This could, for example, include avoiding certain stereotypical labels which serve only to further entrench negative stereotypes and draw attention to someone’s race instead of their actual actions.

Furthermore, it is again worth noting that the media has a role to play in terms

Margaret Hanson

Margaret R. Hanson is a journalist and writer from the United Kingdom. She has been writing about the UK for over a decade, covering topics such as politics, current affairs, and culture. Margaret is committed to producing work that is engaging, informative, and thought-provoking.

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