England and Wales are more diverse than ever, with Christianity no longer the most common religion and fewer people identifying as white, according to the census.
For the first time in 2021, less than half of the population (46.2%) described themselves as Christian, down from 59.3% a decade earlier.
The proportion of people describing themselves as Muslim rose from 4.9% in 2011 to 6.5% last year, and the proportion of Hindus increased from 1.5% to 1.7%. There were also slight increases in the number of Buddhists and Sikhs.
London was the most religiously diverse region of England, according to the 2021 census, with over a quarter (25.3%) of all usual residents reporting following a religion other than Christianity. The South West was least religiously diverse regions, with 3.2% selecting a religion other than Christian.
Ethnicity data showed that 81.7% of people in England and Wales fall into the white ethnic group, however this is down from 86% in the 2011 census. Around three-quarters of people in this group identified as English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British.
England and Wales diversity
The next most common ethnic group was Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh, accounting for 9.3% of the population. This was up from 7.5% a decade earlier.
Across the 19 ethnic groups, the largest percentage point increase was seen in the number of people identifying through the White: Other White category (6.2%, up from 4.4%). There was also a large increase in people identifying as an “other” ethnic group (1.6%, up from 0.6%) and Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean or African (2.5%, up from 1.8%).
London was the most ethnically diverse region of England and saw an 8.1 percentage point decrease of people who identified as “White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British” (36.8%, down from 44.9% in 2011).
English continued to be the main language spoken in 2021 (91.1% of the population), but 7.1% said they were proficient in English but didn’t speak it as their main language. The most common languages spoken, other than English or Welsh in Wales, were Polish, Romanian, Panjabi and Urdu.
Despite the figures showing that England and Wales are more diverse than ever, business psychologist Binna Kandola warned that this does not necessarily mean society has become more inclusive.
Kandola, co-founder of consultancy Pearn Kandola, said: “Inequalities can also be clearly seen in the workplace. Our research recently found that 61% of Black employees and 46% of Asian employees experienced racism at work in 2021. What’s more, comfort levels discussing racism in the workplace have barely changed since 2018.
“The situation is similar when we look at religious groups… We found that almost a third of UK-based Hindu employees do not feel comfortable discussing religious festivals at work, revealing a lack of inclusion, awareness and education about other religions and cultures in the workplace.”
Kandola said workplaces must play a part in encouraging greater religious and racial inclusivity.
“Leaders need to take accountability, fostering inclusive behaviours, setting an example when it comes to challenging stereotypical attitudes, and being open to being challenged,” he said.
“Listening to the experiences of our colleagues and having open dialogues on this emotive topic, conducted in an atmosphere which fosters trust, safety and respect for one another, are significant ways in which we can build even more inclusive workplaces.”
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