Posted on January 29, 2014

The 800,000 People Living in Britain with Little or No English

John Bingham, Telegraph (London), January 29, 2014

Almost 800,000 people living in England and Wales have little or no English, with more than half not working, official figures show.

A new analysis of findings from the 2011 census shows dramatic differences in the lifestyles and employment chances of migrants with a limited command of English compared with the general population.

Migrants with little or no English are 50 per cent more likely to be unemployed than native speakers and three times as likely to have no formal qualifications.

The study also showed that those who do work are condemned to the lowest paid and most laborious jobs if they do not have a working command of English.

Significantly the problem is most acute among women. Overall 60 per cent of those living in England and Wales but unable to speak the national tongue are female.

It follows warnings that women from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh brought to the UK as wives are suffering some of the greatest levels of social exclusion.

Overall the census found that there are 3.7 million people living in England and Wales for whom English–or Welsh in Wales–is not their main language.

The vast majority of them do speak the national language well but the census found that there are 785,000 who admit speaking English either poorly or not at all.

They amount to just 1.7 per cent of the population but a much larger proportion of the non-working population, analysts at the Office for National Statistics found.

While 72 per cent of working-aged people whose main language is English had a job on census day in 2011, just 48 per cent of those who struggle to speak English had a job.

The rest are not working, the vast majority of them economically inactive.

Only just over a third of women with little or no English are in work, compared with more than two thirds of men in the same position.

And three quarters of workers who do not have good English are employed in the most menial categories of work including as farm labourers, in factories or cleaning.

Women with little or no English who work are two and a half times as likely to be in basic jobs as migrants who do speak English well and five times more likely as native English speakers.

The figures show that housewives make up the biggest category of women who do not have a good command of English.

Overall almost 60 per cent of women who cannot speak English well are classed as economically inactive–meaning that they are not working or looking for work–compared with only a quarter of men with the same language levels.

Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP for Keighley–who was one of the first politicians to raise the issue of migrants failing to learn English–said there was a particular problem among the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in her former constituency with women being brought to Britain as wives and denied the chance to integrate.

“English is the key to everything,” she said.

“In the 13 years that I was a Member of Parliament I was unable to persuade the Pakistani community or the Bangladeshi community that it would be a really good idea for them to start to marry within the settled community itself, it is the way forward for them.

“I think the Government do have to tighten up–if you are saying that a new husband or wife has to have a reasonable level of English they have got to check that that is the case.

“But ultimately I don’t think it is a Government solution that we need, it is a solution from he community.

“They will not advance until they accept that it is a good thing to marry someone who is actually born in the Bradford district and not from Mirpur [the district of Kashmir].

“We have had waves and waves of immigration to Bradford and Keighley district over the past 100 years but it has always been the case–if you think of the Irish, the Italians and even other Asian communities–they do not tend to bring husbands and wives in from outside the community, they tend to marry in the settled community but it is not happening wit the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community.”