The social framework
There are over 62 million people living in the United Kingdom; this makes the country one of the most crowded places on the planet.
According to Eurostat, over 16 per cent of the UK population is now aged 65 or over – including 4.5 per cent over 80. This will rise to 24.7 per cent by 2060, when there will be just two workers for every pensioner.
The British are a mixture of different peoples. The “indigenous” English are mainly of Anglo-Saxon origin, the Welsh are mainly of Celtic breed while the Scots trace their roots back to the Celts and Scandinavians.
About 79 per cent of the UK population is still classified as English, about ten per cent as Scottish, and about three and a half per cent as Welsh and Irish.
Britain has been home to immigrant groups for many centuries. As a result eight per cent of the British population belong to ethnic minorities. The largest ethnic minority groups are those of Indian, Caribbean and African descent who came from former colonies in the 1950s.
In the 19th and 20th centuries there were also significant waves of refugees – Russian, Jews, Vietnamese. Most recently refugees have come to Britain from troubled corners of the world such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.
Since Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004 approximately half a million workers – aged 18-34 – are estimated to have come to the UK with high employments rates, but comparatively low wages despite their relatively good education and skill levels.
The diversity of cultures has enriched and influenced many aspects of British society, including food, business, ideas, music and the arts. Many ethnic minority groups are concentrated in particular areas and although white and non-white young people mix in school and college, integration is not always easy.
Religious diversity, that is the right to religious freedom granted to all citizens, is one of the defining features of the British society. Christianity is the dominant religion of the United Kingdom, although a large percentage claim to be atheist or agnostics. Muslim now number one million and an half, followed by Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and Buddhist. The United Kingdom has a history of religious tolerance is now widespread.