London's ethnic balance shifting

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The Independent Online

Public Policy Editor

Almost 30 per cent of London's population is set to come from the ethnic minorities in 15 years' time, making London almost certainly the most ethnically diverse capital in the world.

Two London boroughs, Brent in the north-west and Newham in the east, are expected to have ethnic minority populations of more than 50 per cent, according to a new study undertaken by the London Research Centre. Three more, Tower Hamlets, Harrow and Ealing, are projected to be above 40 per cent. At present, the proportions for Brent and Newham are 45 and 44 per cent.

The growth results almost entirely from the age structure of the existing population rather than from immigration or higher birth rates, the centre - partially funded by the London boroughs - said yesterday.

The ethnic minority population will rise from 20 per cent in 1991 to 28 per cent by 2011, a 40 per cent increase to just under 2 million - over half of whom will have been born in Britain. In the same period, London's white population is set to decline by almost 430,000 to 5,064,000.

The findings have important implications for race relations, businesses and services as the growth in ethnic minorities helps to reverse a 45- year decline in the population of the capital. From more than 8.5 million in 1939, it fell to below 6.8 million in the mid-Eighties, but is set to rise to just over 7 million by 2011.

With London's school children speaking 200 different languages, the capital's diversity can provide "a vital competitive edge in the global markets", Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said yesterday. But it also presents a challenge to health and other services as immigrants of the Fifties and Sixties reach retirement age.