Younger, Sicker, Less Educated: First Census into Britain’s Gypsy Population

Matthew Holehouse, Telegraph (London), January 21, 2014

Gypsies and Irish travellers are the least healthy, least educated and least economically active of any ethnic group, the first census of the group has found.

The country’s gypsy and traveller population is younger than the rest of the population and more likely to have children, the first official study has found.

Contrary to popular myth, nearly two-thirds live in houses while just a quarter live in caravans.

A tick-box for gypsies and travellers appeared on the census for the first time in 2011, after being recognised as a distinct ethnic group under the Equality Act 2010. Many state agencies regard the community as marginalised, who as a result suffer from poor health and education.

The census found the gypsy population is significantly younger than the rest of the population. The average age of gypsies and travellers is 26, compared to a national average of 39. Around 39 per cent of the population is under 20, compared to 24 per cent for the entire population.

The group is the worst educated of any ethnicity, with 60 per cent of adults having no qualifications, against 23 per cent for the rest of the population. Among the over 65s, 84 per cent have no qualifications, compared to 53 per cent for the rest of the older population.

It also has the lowest levels of people in work of any ethnic group at 47 per cent, compared to 63 per cent for the entire population and 49 per cent for Arabs, the second lowest group. Twenty per cent are listed as unemployed, compared to 7 per cent for the entire population.

Health is frequently linked by experts to being in work, and the census found gypsies and travellers have the worst health of any ethnic group. Despite being far younger than the rest of the population, some 70 per cent said their health was good or very good, compared to 81 per cent for the population as a whole. Some 14 per cent said their health was bad or very bad, compared to 6 per cent for the rest of the population.

The proportion of lone parents against all family types is 24 per cent, compared to 11 per cent for the entire population. And 45 per cent of gypsy and traveller families have dependent children, compared to 29 per cent of the rest of the country.

Most gypsies and travellers – some 61 per cent – live in houses or bungalows, and 15 per cent live in flats, while just 24 per cent live in caravans or mobile homes. Just 0.3 per cent, or one family in three hundred, from the rest of the population live in temporary structures.

The census found 58,000 people calling themselves gypsies or travellers, although unofficial estimates have put the population as high as 300,000. The group has been historically wary of being included in official data sets, the Office for National Statistics said.

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