"Birmingham faces a number of difficult social issues that have an impact on cohesion"
According to findings in a new report on community cohesion, British white people could find themselves becoming a minority group in Birmingham.
The Birmingham Draft Policy labelled as the ‘Community Cohesion Strategy For Birmingham Green Paper’ and was compiled in May 2018 to study social cohesion.
It found that in the 2011 census, 42.1% of people in Birmingham classified themselves as non-white British. This was a big increase of 12% since the 2001 survey.
Researchers believe that if this dramatic increase in rate continues, by the time of the next census (which will be conducted in 2021) it is thought that more than half of the city’s 1.2 million-plus is the time population will be from an ethnic minority background.
In the UK, the BAME community (black, Asian and minority ethnic) form a key part of the social fabric.
Their contribution creates a varied and multicultural society. The report highlights some of the positives of ethnic diversity including transnational trading links, cultural resource, and economic vitality. The report states:
“Ethnic diversity can bring many benefits such as transnational trading links and high levels of cultural resource.
“Birmingham has benefited from its diverse migrant communities who have settled in the city and successfully contributed to its economic vitality, becoming leaders in education, medicine, sports, arts and business and providing employment opportunities to local people.”
The report continued:
“Our demographic landscape is increasingly becoming ethnically and socially ‘super diverse’, which means a greater understanding of the changes in cultural norms, identities and social shifts in how we live work and learn is needed.”
South Asian Migration to the UK
The history of South Asian migration to the UK can be linked back to the 18th century and British colonial rule.
The creation of the East Indian Company opened the portal for trade and travel between the two continents of Europe and Asia. Many Indians also contributed heavily to the First and Second World Wars.
Then, post-1947, and India’s independence from the British Raj saw many citizens travel to Europe and the UK for better opportunities.
For the most part, migrants who entered the UK arrived to seek out a better life compared to their homelands. Many South Asians, in particular, sought work in factories and foundries in order to make money to send back home to their families.
Eventually, the wives and families of these men also joined them, and since then they have settled and flourished in numerous parts of the UK.
South Asian migrants have settled into Britain from countries including India, Pakistan, and other parts of South Asia. They have since changed communities with their array of colourful cultures and languages.
Birmingham, in particular, enjoys a diverse range of South Asian communities who have built their own shops and businesses over the years, thus contributing to British society.
Challenges for British Asian Communities
Whilst there are plenty of positives to having a multicultural society, accommodating so many different cultures can be a challenge. With a city full of people from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, integrating can be hard.
For many first generation Asians, it can be difficult to fully integrate into British society due to these cultural differences and language barriers, and these are just a few of the factors that can weaken social cohesion.
Not to mention, many South Asian parents feel the need to make sure their children grow up with the same cultural beliefs. This is especially true if they are the first generation South Asians coming to Britain.
This can lead to the aforementioned difficulties being magnified when it comes to fully integrating with British society. South Asian attempts to reinforce traditional cultural values can, therefore, lead to a shunning of British values.
As a result, some South Asians can grow up in Britain feeling like they don’t fully belong.
Furthermore, second generation Asians face a new set of problems that can inhibit them from integrating. This includes a lack of understanding and discrimination.
Equalities Chief Councillor Tristan Chatfield explained the issues behind social cohesion. He said:
“Birmingham faces a number of difficult social issues that have an impact on cohesion; whilst these are not unique to our city, we cannot assume that national government policy will address them.”
The Councillor continued by summarising how Birmingham should move forward. He said:
“Collectively, Birmingham should lead by example in challenging anything that prevents our citizens from reaching their full potential, including discrimination, poverty, segregation or a lack of ambition.”
However, there is an increasing number of South Asians who are integrating and associating with those of other ethnicities. Moreover, the work of various charities aiming to eliminate barriers can help this integration.
Whilst there continues to be issues with social cohesion and integration, drafting up policies can help.
These policies are constantly being made to find new ways to tackle social issues, which is just another step forward to becoming a more cohesive society.