British Indians remain the largest ethnic minority group in England and Wales with the number now over 1.8 million, according to the latest census figures released this week.
The analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the 2021 Census data gives a more definitive figure since the last census in 2011 pegged the number of British Indians at just over 1.4 million and has since been estimated at being well above that. According to the census respondents who ticked the sub-category “Indian” in the census conducted in March last year, there are now 1,864,318 Indian-origin residents in England and Wales – this makes up 3.1 per cent of the population, up from 2.5 per cent in 2011.
The latest statistics reflect the changing face of modern Britain, not only as more and more ethnically diverse but also religiously and culturally.
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“For the first time in a census of England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2 per cent, 27.5 million people) described themselves as ‘Christian’, a 13.1 percentage point decrease from 59.3 per cent (33.3 million) in 2011; despite this decrease, ‘Christian’ remained the most common response to the religion question,” the ONS said in its analysis.
“There were increases in the number of people who described themselves as ‘Muslim’ (3.9 million, 6.5 per cent in 2021, up from 2.7 million, 4.9 per cent in 2011) and ‘Hindu’ (1.0 million, 1.7 per cent in 2021, up from 818,000, 1.5 per cent in 2011),” the ONS found.
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Those identifying as Sikh also registered a small increase, up from 0.8 per cent (423,000) in 2011 to 0.9 per cent (524,000) in 2021 and Buddhists a similar hike from 0.4 per cent (249,000) to 0.5 per cent (273,000). The religion question in the census is voluntary, which the ONS said was answered by 94 per cent of residents, an increase from 92.9 per cent in 2011.
The data also shows that London remains the most religiously diverse region of England, with Harrow in the north of the UK capital with the highest percentage of the Hindu population at 25.8 per cent, up from 25.3 per cent in 2011. The city of Leicester was next with a greater increase of practicing Hindus at 2.7 percentage points – 17.9 per cent, up from 15.2 per cent in 2011. The city has also become one of the first cities in the country where people identifying as white are no longer the majority – with 41 per cent in 2021 compared to 51 per cent in 2011.
The cities of Luton and Birmingham are among some other cities to have a non-white majority, at 54.8 per cent and 51.4 per cent, respectively.
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The areas with both the highest percentage overall and the largest percentage increase of people describing their religion as Sikh remained Wolverhampton and Sandwell in the West Midlands region of England.
However, Punjabi, which was the second most common language in 2011 has dropped to third place, followed by Urdu at fourth. Among the South Asian languages, Bengali and Gujarati have dropped several spots from fourth and fifth in 2011 to eighth and ninth respectively – something highlighted by Labour MP Gareth Thomas in his campaign to revive languages.