UK-Asian Population Report
A Useful Starting Point
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.
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).
Exercise in Self Perception
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 `Black Caribbean'.
Little Help to TECs
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.