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By David Milliken
LONDON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Less than half of people in England and Wales now consider themselves Christian, after a sharp rise in people with no religion, while the share of the population who identify as white has declined, new census data showed on Tuesday.
The white population of England and Wales fell to 81.7% of the total in the 2021 census from 86% in 2011, while the proportion who described their ethnicity as ‘Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh’ rose to 9.3% from 7.5%.
The population of people identifying as “Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean or African” in England and Wales rose to 4% from 3.3%.
Britain’s Office for National Statistics said the changes reflect “different patterns of ageing, fertility, mortality and migration” and perhaps changes in how people classify themselves.
Census data released earlier this month showed that the foreign-born population in England and Wales has increased by 2.5 million over the past 10 years, reflecting significant immigration from Eastern Europe, South Asia and from Africa.
Data for Great Britain as a whole is not available as the Scottish Government delayed the census for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked about the figures, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The UK is a diverse country and that is to be welcomed, and that also includes diversity of religion.”
Census data on Tuesday showed a particularly sharp decline in the proportion of people in England and Wales who identify themselves as Christian, which fell to 46.2% in 2021 from 59.3% in 2011.
This decline was mirrored by a sharp increase in people saying they have no religion, which rose to 37.2% from 25.2%.
Islam was the second most common religion, followed by 6.5% of the population and 4.9% in 2011, while Hinduism was the third most common at 1.7%. Sikhs made up 0.9% and Jews 0.5% of the population.
The Church of England still plays an important role in state ceremonial events, and its bishops have guaranteed seats in the upper house of the British Parliament.
The census also allowed people to give more details about their ethnicity.
Among people who self-identified as white, the percentage who also said they were “English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British” dropped to 74.4% from 80.5% in 2011, while “White: Other” it rose to 6.2% from 4.4%.
The absolute number of whites in England and Wales rose to 48.7 million from 48.2 million, although the number who said they were white and of British or other UK ethnicity fell to 44.4 million from 45.1 million.
For people of Asian ethnicity, the numbers claiming Indian, Pakistani or Bengali heritage all increased, while the proportion with Chinese ancestry remained stable.
Fewer Black people described themselves as being of Caribbean descent, while the main African backgrounds provided were Nigerian, Somali and Ghanaian.
London remained the most ethnically mixed part of England and Wales. Only 36.8% of Londoners described themselves as “white: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British”, down from 44.9% in 2011.
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
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