Census & sensibility

The results of the 2011 Census for England and Wales are in. The mob hath spoken and the overall picture reveals a land that has changed markedly since 2001 in a number of ways. See for yourself:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/Census/2011/index.html

The most headline-grabbing statistic concerned the increased ethnic diversity of England, with the proportion of respondents identifying themselves as ‘white British’ having dropped from 87.5% in 2001 to 80.5% in 2011. This varies greatly by region; Wales is almost overwhelmingly white British (much like Scotland), whereas the figures show that in London the proportion is an all-time low at 48%. This has caused great alarm among many natives, who feel that this change in the ethnic make-up of their native country, which accelerated under the ministries of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, is a threat to their way of life and security. I think such fears are unfounded, though it is completely understandable that ordinary folk should be alarmed by such rapid change. We are only human, after all. The statistics are too numerous to cover in full here, but I would like to reflect on some of the more salient points.

  • The Census confirms my long-held belief that London is a foreign city. That’s not a complaint; in a way, it’s part of London’s appeal. Since medieval times, the metropolis has been a melting-pot for a great variety of cultures. People from all four corners of the globe go to live and work there, adding a splash of their own country to the rich palette. I visit the place about once a month and I am as much an outsider as the tourists who chatter in a thousand tongues on the London Underground. The capital is at once familiar and alien. I make my way through the ancient, winding streets and dodge the traffic as if I were born to it, but it is not my city – it is everyone’s city. In London, there are many thousands of Europeans, Antipodeans, Asians, Africans and Americans who call it home. The working girls of Soho hail from places like Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Thailand and Russia; to find an Englishwoman among them would be a rarity indeed. Gastronomic pleasures are equally exotic, with restaurants catering to every taste. With this in mind, it is not a wonder that so few Londoners have Anglo-Saxon or Celtic origins, but so many.
  • My concern about the results of the Census is not with ethnicity, but with volume. The population of England and Wales grew by 4 million in 10 years. This is unsustainable, especially since the bulk of that growth was concentrated in the eastern half of England. There are too many people and not enough resources to support them. New houses and flats need to be built when populations rise. These homes need to be connected to the regional water, gas and electricity supply, while new roads need to be built to connect them. With little space or money for the construction of new railways, existing transport links must take the extra traffic, which causes more delays and greater frustration for the average commuter. Immigrants get ill and start families just as we do, so they need to avail themselves of healthcare facilities, putting a greater strain on the cash-strapped NHS. In short, people have needs and cannot be expected to live self-sufficiently like frontiersmen. Did former Prime Minister Tony Blair ever stop to think about this during his tenure in office? The huge population increase was under his watch, so he must take the lion’s share of the blame for the precarious situation we are currently in.
  • Prior to Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, there were some 50,000 Poles living in England and Wales. In 2011, there were 579,000 – by far the largest increase out of all the nationalities. As I mentioned in a previous post, some of the benefits of membership in the European Union are free trade and free movement of peoples. Many Britons live and work on the Continent, while here we have 300,000 French, almost as many Germans and 400,000 Irish. Now Poles have joined them, taking advantage of a strong pound and job opportunities in Britain. What surprises me is the significant increase in non-EU migrants since 2001. Why was there a 56% increase among those born in Pakistan? Can this rise be attributed to vigorous rubber-stamping of student visas during the Labour years? How can the 120% increase in Nigerians be explained or justified?
The leading countries of origin for migrants in England & Wales 2011

The leading countries of origin for migrants in England & Wales 2011

Largest numbers of foreign-born by unitary authority 2011

Largest numbers of foreign-born by unitary authority 2011

  • In England and Wales, the largest employer is wholesale and retail, along with repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles, coming in at 15.9 per cent (4.2m) of respondents. Said vehicles, I hasten to add, were almost all manufactured overseas. This figure was more than 3 per cent higher (900,000) than the second most common area of work: human health and social work activities (3.3m). Elsewhere, education, manufacturing and construction completed the top five most common industries of work last year.
  • The old institutions don’t hold as much appeal these days, as there were 4 million fewer Christians in 2011 than there were in 2001 and 25.1% of respondents reported no religion. I imagine that the bad publicity Christianity has been getting in recent years (child abuse among Catholic priests, the schism of the Church of England) and changing attitudes to homosexuality have rendered the clergy less relevant in modern Britain. I was raised a Roman Catholic, but upon reaching adulthood, I realised that my belief in the preternatural had always been subject to change pending new evidence, or lack thereof. In the end, it was logic and reason which won out, so I cast off the shackles of blind faith, jettisoning my silver cross into a muddy ditch. I am resigned to the fact that my gravestone will most likely read: “here lies an atheist; all dressed up and nowhere to go.” Nevertheless, I’ve made my bed and I shall lie in it. I wonder if my fellow apostates here in Blighty are equally aware of what they have got themselves into, or if they have simply swapped kneeling on Sundays for ghost-hunting and alien abductions.
Religious belief in England & Wales 2011

Religious belief in England & Wales 2011

  • Proportionally fewer couples were married in 2011 compared with 2001. While I don’t have an issue with ‘living in sin’, I do have a big problem with the social disease that is single parenthood. In the council estate near my home, the most troublesome children are those who lack a father figure to instil discipline into them. Their mothers are morally-bankrupt, mannerless harlots who thought it would be ‘cool’ to lie with the neighbourhood bad boy. The result? A lifetime on benefits and neglected children who never learn right from wrong. Today’s tearaways are tomorrow’s failures. There is nothing empowering about being a single mother.

The Census made for interesting reading, but it is not 100% accurate. Some people fail at the simple act of completing a form, or don’t take it seriously enough, or were against the idea on principle. As one who takes a great interest in facts and figures, I have little patience for such bloody-mindedness. For the government, this Census is a tool for policy planning. For the historian, it is a glimpse into an age which will one day pass us by. It will help future generations study those who came before them and get a better picture of how we live. How they will judge us remains to be seen.

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One thought on “Census & sensibility

  1. Lots of interesting points raised….
    I keep pointing out to people who’ve visited London as tourists that they’ve not, in fact, seen anything of England. London isn’t England, it’s on a different planet from the rest of the country, lol. I loved living there, and for an entire decade 🙂

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