For convenience and ease of reference, the analysis
of the 1991 OPCS census of the population, conducted by the South
Asian Development Partnership detailed in this report, has used
the same categories as those adopted by the census itself. In this
respect, the South Asian population of the UK, as defined by the
national census, comprises those of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladesh
descent. A rather imperfect and broadly-based definition,
as we shall see, but one which nevertheless, offers a useful starting
point for further research.
1991 SADP UK CENSUS ANALYSIS
The Basis of the Report
ln the original research, the earliest
available census data was used. This gave the proportion of South
Asians living in a given area in percentage terms to one decimal
place. These percentages were then converted back to an absolute
number by multiplying them by the population they related to.
This method gives very accurate numbers
when the population involved is large but can produce distorted
results when applied to small South Asian communities. In the final
report we have used the County Monitor figures from OPCS, which
offer a greater degree of accuracy and have recently become available
(except for Scotland).
Asian Population Report for Great Britain
Based on County
Monitors (England & Wales) and Regional Monitors (Scotland)
of the 1991 OPCS Census
While completing the national census
form, all UK residents were asked to place themselves in one of
a number of identified categories - as listed in Table One (right).
On the surface, the categories in Table
One may seem quite straightfoward and self-explanatory. However,
closer analysis reveals that the whole exercise is fraught with
difficulty and based largely on self-perception.
Take, for example, a black male, born
in the UK but of Caribbean parentage. Which of the groups listed
in Table One would he see himself as belonging to? He could,
justifiably, describe himself as `Black Other', or, with equal justification
That said, the categories shown in
Table One present fewer problems for the UK's South Asian population.
Fewer problems for people completing census forms perhaps, but the
resulting information is of little help to TECs and other organisations
aiming to meet the needs of minority groups. Why? - lets take the
term `Indian' as but one example.
The appropriateness of using the term
`Indian' to define a single homogenous group is as valid as using
the all-embracing term `European' to describe the characteristics
of people from individual European nation states. What does the
term `European' mean? What does it tell us about the people so categorised?
Not a great deal. Describing people as `Indian' is equally meaningless.
Indeed, as some argue that there is less cultural cohesion in India
than there is in Europe, then the single category `Indian' has even
less meaning and relevance.
The lesson here is clear: if we really want to help and support South
Asians, we must recognise and take into account the immense cultural,
religious and social diversity withing this section of our Population.