Why Birmingham’s super-diversity is a strength, and not a surprise

Today the 2021 Census data on ethnicity has revealed that Birmingham is one of the first ‘super diverse’ cities in the UK where citizens from ethnic minorities make up more than half the population.

Cllr John Cotton reflects why this is not a surprise and also one of the city’s biggest strengths.

Birmingham is famous for the warm welcome it offers to all who come to our city – it is one of our strengths and why it is home to people from 187 different nationalities.

Figures from the 2021 census, reveal that the city’s ethnic minorities represent 51.4 per cent of the city’s population, making Birmingham one of the first super-diverse cities in the UK.

The notion of being Birmingham becoming a ‘super-diverse’ city - where ethnic communities represent more than half our population - has long been forecast by academics and also in our Community Cohesion Strategy, published in 2018.

From the arrival of the Irish, who came to Birmingham looking for work, through to the Windrush era when people from the Caribbean answered the call to help rebuild the country after the Second World War – through to the expansion of the European Union, various conflicts and political situations, which most recently saw refugees arrive from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine – the city has a long history of welcoming people from around the world.

Birmingham is recognised as a City of Sanctuary, and last week it was officially named as a Local Authority of Sanctuary – part of the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network – recognising how we are working to support asylum seekers, refugees and migrants arriving in Birmingham, helping them to settle in local communities and embed this approach into the city council’s ethos.

Of course this doesn’t mean we are oblivious to the challenges welcoming more people to our city means – the impact this can have on services and the Government funding needed to ensure they can be supported accordingly.

We also want to ensure that everyone in Birmingham, whether they are a longstanding resident or a more recent arrival, has an equal chance to share in our city’s success, which is why our Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business strategy (EBEB) on tackling inequalities is so important. We want every citizen to prosper and thrive in our city.

The EBEB action plan, which was refreshed earlier this year, outlines in detail the city’s commitment to levelling the playing field for all those working and seeking to work for the council – as one of Birmingham’s main employers.

We want to see city partners follow our lead, if we are to embrace opportunities and address the challenges we face.

This is why Census data is so crucial, as it helps inform central Government in allocating resources, which we hope will help meet the needs of a super-diverse city like Birmingham. We need our fair share of funding and support, so everyone has a chance to prosper and succeed.

In February, Birmingham’s Levelling Up Strategy - Prosperity and Opportunity For All was published, setting out the council’s ambitious blueprint for inclusive and sustainable growth to improve the lives and life chances of people and communities across the city.

This vision for unleashing Birmingham’s potential aims to tackle inequalities such as ill health, poor educational attainment, low skills and incomes, congestion and air pollution – while developing new homes, employment sites and community assets.

The idea is simple – to enable everyone to benefit from Birmingham’s growth and success, whoever they are regardless of background and wherever they live in our city

The difference and diversity of our communities is a veritable strength. Look at how during the pandemic people came together to help one another in an unprecedented crisis.  We are seeing the same during the current Cost of Living emergency – further underlying the fact we have more in common than that which divides us.

This was further evidenced as Birmingham hosted the Commonwealth Games in the summer – it was much more than 11 days of sport, it perfectly illustrated how people from all backgrounds and communities came together to celebrate the Games, what Birmingham represents and what it means to those who live here.

Birmingham is a booming city entering into a golden decade of opportunity – and we want everyone to be able to benefit from its growth and success.

We are also a city experiencing rapid change, so it’s vital we continually observe, discuss and seek best practice when it comes to community cohesion. Through Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business, and the wider work of our Equalities and Cohesion teams, linking in with communities across the city, this plays an integral part in all that we do.

Ultimately people make a city, people make a home and that city and home are one and the same here in Birmingham – and that’s something we’re proud to be, a welcoming home to all who come here.

Note to editors:

The 2021 Census data on ethnicity, religion and national identify can be found on the Office for National Statistics website.

This blog was published on 29 November 2022.

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