Figures published by the Office for National Statistics have shown that between 2001 and 2009 the population of England and Wales increased by 2.45 million to 54.8 million.
However, the numbers of white British people actually fell by 36,000 in that period, while the group of people the ONS classify as non-‘white British’, increased from 6.64 million to 9.13 million. This group includes everyone from Chinese, black African, Pakistani, mixed white and black Caribbean as well as Australian, Canadian and European.
The proportion of the population in England and Wales that is from an ethnic minority group has increased from 13 per cent in 2001 to 17 per cent in 2009.
The figures have once again opened up the debate over whether levels of immigration were too high over the last decade. Of the 2.45 million extra people in the country, 1.75 million came from net migration, while 733,900 came from births.
The net migration figure would have been far higher had the white British population not suffered from a net migration fall, with 396,000 more white Britons leaving the country than returning.
David Green, the chief executive of the think tank Civitas, said: “There are a number of reasons why these figures demonstrate why we should never again allow such a big influx in such a short period of time.
“We are a crowded country. If you bring in people at a greater rate than the number of jobs created you will drive down wage growth, and that tends to hit salaries at the lower end of the income scale.
“And our infrastructure has just failed to adjust quickly enough. Most immigrants are young, many with children. This is one of the reasons why schools and midwives have been under pressure in recent years.”
However, other experts said the growing number of immigrants would play a crucial role in helping to fund Britain’s ageing population. Omar Khan, head of policy research at The Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, said: “Other European nations, such as Germany and Italy, are now seeing their populations fall as they age, which is a worry for the future of their economies. Given these trends, Britain’s increasing diversity should be viewed as a success, because it means that we will have enough younger workers to ensure our older population has a dignified retirement.
“We may yet find that these ethnic minority Britons also move to Spain or Australia when they retire, but for the medium to long term, they are a vital and contributing part of our society. Let’s not forget that Tesco, Marks and Spencer and easyJet were all founded by migrants or their children.”
The fastest growing ethnic minority group, in percentage terms, was Chinese, which jumped from 233,000 to 451,000 over the period.
London, whose population was already made up of 40.4 per cent ethnic minorities in 2001, hardly changed its composition in the last decade with 40.5 per cent eight years later. In contrast, nearly all areas outside of London saw a dramatic change in ethnic mix. The south east, for instance, went from being compose of 8.8 per cent ethnic minorities to 14.3 per cent during the period.