NABA Preliminary Report on 2011 Census  

There had long been a recognised absence of accurate data on the number of Arabs living in the UK, together with numbers of first generation Arabs and mixed Arabs who identified themselves as such in the Census. This absence has become increasingly frustrating both to community groups and to researchers who are now frequently addressing questions of Arab immigration and the views of first generation Arab and mixed Arab populations in relation to their opinions both on their new homeland and on the political situation in their original homelands.   (Appendix 1)

According to a Census Stakeholders Consultation held in 2006/07, more than 80 per cent of all respondents stated that they had a requirement for an ethnic group question in the 2011 Census. The reasoning behind such a request includes:

·       To provide public bodies with a better understanding of the communities they serve and hence inform service provision;

·       To enable organisations to meet their statutory obligations to the Race Relations Act of 1976 and Race Relations (Amendment) of 2000 where other sources are inadequate to provide adequate data for small, geographically dispersed ethnic populations (Appendix 2);

·       To inform policy development and monitoring including the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Accurate, reliable data about ethnic groups, language and religion is an essential part of the planning process to help ensure equality of outcomes for all diverse communities.

However, there is only limited space available on the Census form which means that some communities and groups will have tick boxes whilst others must write in their answers in the ‘Other’ box. A key aim of the ONS consultation is to ensure that the questions are ‘acceptable to the greatest number of people from all communities and groups’. It has been found that response rates will be reduced if the questions are not acceptable, or people do not understand why they are asked.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) Classification of ethnic groups determined by the 2001 Census comprised seventeen categories under five broad headings:

·         White (White British, White Irish and any other White background)

·         Asian or Asian British (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani and any other Asian background)

·         Black or Black British (African, Caribbean and another Black background)

·         Mixed and Other have been combined (Chinese, all mixed groups and any other ethnic group)

·         ‘Not Stated’

Given the range of inward migration to the UK, these categories can now be seen to be inadequate.

This issue was addressed by the National Association of British Arabs who lobbied the government since 2004 for recognition of Arab as part of the Ethnic Profiling* used widely in all government/non-governmental documents. These figures were considered essential in order to influence government policies in health, education, discrimination, migration etc and also to deliver services that are appropriate to the needs of people from different communities and cultures. Their absence, particularly in relation to health and discrimination was a serious obstacle to gauging many problems, including the numbers of victims of violence and specific health problems which were not identified specifically because of the lack of ‘Arab’ as an ethnic identity on either health or police profiles.  It was well recognised that there was also a reluctance to use the existing facility of the ‘Other’ ethnic profile box as it was felt that this was both demeaning and irrelevant as a method of recoding ethnic origin.

One example of this was that the ONS found that between 2005-2008, the proportion of records with ‘Not Stated’ values was an important measure of the usefulness and quality of the data. In England and Wales, 9.6% of live birth records had ethnicity recorded as ‘No Stated’. This category was not evenly distributed across local areas, varying from zero to 98%. This would signify that there were; (a) a number of people who did not find their own ethnicity recognised as part of the profiling, together with (b) a number of people of objected to responding to this question.

The East Midlands region has the largest proportions of ‘Not Stated’ with Leicester at 98%. In relation to infant deaths, the percentage of ‘Not Stated’ ethnicity was 10.5% for England and Wales ranging from 3.4% (North East) to 32.5% (East Midlands).

As an example of the need for such monitoring, gestational age and ethnicity are not routinely collected at birth registration but are important factors in understanding births and infant deaths. Gestational age is collected by the NHS Birth Notifications system as it is an important determinant of healthy outcome for babies.  The NHS Birth Notifications system collects ethnicity to assist with organisations’ monitoring of their service delivery. Whilst ethnicity is usually self-defined, the baby’s ethnic group as stated by the mother is recorded in the system. Individuals may choose not to state ethnicity. In local areas with a very high proportion of ‘Not Stated’ records this ‘opting out’ may not be the sole reason. The ‘Not Stated’ response category for ethnicity may also indicate non-responses of ‘Not Known’, ‘Missing’, or ‘Not Asked’.

National Identity and Ethnicity [1]

The ONS examines the range of outputs that can be cross-tabulated, for example analysing ethnicity by language, country of birth, religion and national identity.

National identity information is used to measure identification with different countries of the UK, as well as nations outside the UK. It was not included in the 2001 Census, but there was strong demand for information after 2001. When the national identity question was introduced, there was some evidence to show that British-born people from ethnic minority groups were more likely to answer the ethnic group question if a national identity question was asked first, as it still allowed them to state that they were British. This suggests it has a positive effect on the response to the ethnic group question.

A major study was made by the Greater London Authority in 2005 who sought to enumerate the numbers of Arabs living in the capital using the countries making up the Arab League (Appendix 1) as those representative of Arab nationals (see full report on NABA website). This research has been the most comprehensive to date and it was estimated that there were the following numbers of ethnic Arabs living in the capital:-


By sex Number                                 %                           Total %

Male 55,884                                        52.3                        48.4

Female 50,949                                   47.7                        51.6

Total 106,833


NABA’s role in 2011 Census

In the absence of any concrete help from government bodies, NABA eventually approached the Office of National Statistics to seek their assistance in gaining recognition of ‘Arab’ as a separate ethnic identity. This was done on the basis that ethnic profiles were taken directly from Census statistics. The ONS kindly allowed NABA representatives to join the Diversity Group of those preparing for the 2011 Census and NABA has worked with the ONS since 2005 to this end.

Census 2011 Results

The results of the 2011 Census are being published in batches and can be found on the Office of National Statistics website ( It should be noted that the Census results are for England and Wales; Scotland and Northern Ireland publish separate results and do not have the same categories as that of England and Wales.

To date the majority of published results have been relating to the numbers of population in each district, numbers of second homes, income etc. However, over the last few months results on ethnicity and national identity are coming through. NABA will analyse these results as and when they come out and will publish them on the website. It is not anticipated that all results will be available until the end of 2013/early 2014.

It should be noted that a number of responders entered their nationality so the numbers of those ticking the specific ‘Arab’ box may or may not include those who responded by a ‘write-in’ response with their nationality. The figures are not therefore definitive. Neither can we compare the figures to the 2001 Census when there was not a specific response for Arab ethnicity. It is believed that many British Arabs ticked one of the ‘Other’ boxes in the 2001 Census.

It would appear however that as a brief to date we can conclude that:

  1. Arabs make up approximately 0.4% of the population of England and Wales.
  2. Numbers counted for the ‘Arab’ tick box are approximately 240,000. However it should be noted that this does not include those who have put in specific nationalities (see above).
  3. London is the most ethnically diverse area with the highest proportion of minority groups. Two London boroughs had the highest proportion of people who identified as Arab, Westminster at 7.2% and Kensington & Chelsea at 4.1%.
  4. Arabic is now the 7th most commonly spoken language in England & Wales with 159,000 people entering this category making it spoken by 0.3% of the population.


We have included within this paper downloads to results to date. These include:

  • Mixed ethnicity results for England and Wales (Appendix 3)
  • Arabs by region in England and Wales (Appendix 4a)
  • Arabs by region in England and Wales with percentages (Appendix 4b)
  • Breakdown of numbers of Arabs in England and Wales by County (Appendix 5).


Mrs M Jalili (Cllr)

National Association of British Arabs Secretariat

[1] Ethnicity is defined as “A sense of cultural and historical identity based on belonging by birth to a distinctive cultural group”. ‘Ethnic group or background’ replaced ‘cultural background’. Cognitive testing indicated that cultural background was more narrowly construed than ethnicity, with an emphasis on culture and family upbringing. Ethnic group is a wider concept and includes cultural background, race, skin colour and geography and various other factors.



Appendix 1  Countries making up the Arab League States


















Occupied Territories (Gaza and West Bank)


Oman Qatar

Saudi Arabia





United Arab Emirates




Appendix 2

 The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires ONS, as a government department, to have due regard to the general duty of the Act, and its specific duties, when carrying out its functions. The general duty, which is highly relevant to considering changes needed to the ethnic group question, means that ONS must have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful racial discrimination;
  • promote equality of opportunity; and
  • promote good relations between people of different racial groups.

One of the elements taken into account by ONS is the leading role it plays in framing ethnic group categories, which are then used by over 43,000 public bodies across the UK. Public bodies often use the Census ethnicity question as a model for the collection of data for ethnic monitoring. The ethnic group categories of the Census are used by these public bodies to conduct ethnic monitoring.

Monitoring results are evidence of equality performance and enable public bodies to measure and improve equality outcomes for particular communities.

The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone on grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin. The Act protects all racial groups from discrimination.

The Census uses the term ‘ethnic group’ instead of ‘racial group’ since ONS research confirms that this term is more widely understood and accepted across all communities. Unlike ‘ethnic group’, the term ‘racial group’ has no legal definition.


  Appendix 3  
Appendix 4a

Appendix 4b

Appendix 5