In the past ten years technology has moved on apace, and the volume of human data available to monitor trends in diversity is remarkable.  So, what does diversity in 21st Century London really look like?

As coffee table books go, there are those that merit little more than life as a glorified mug coaster, and a sparse few that are genuinely worthy a detailed read. ‘London: The Information Capital’ (James Cheshire & Oliver Uberti, 2014) contains ‘100 maps and graphics that will change how you view the city’, and is a shining example of the latter. Once you can get your head around the sheer enormity of the task the authors must have had in compiling such comprehensive data, you can then bury yourself in a goldmine of fascinating facts, all put together on the back of the UK 2011 Census.

Anyone who has lived in, or visited, London will have a very clear concept of how multi-cultural and diverse a community it is – not just ethnically, but socio–economically, culturally and politically. And here are a few things you didn’t know that you didn’t know about the human footprint on London:

1) Global London

More than 3 million of London’s 8.2 million residents hail from outside the UK; that’s a third more than in 2001. The expansion of the EU and the right to free movement between member states goes a long way to explaining this curve. Passport data gathered in the latest census also gives an insight into London’s diversity, with 23.1% of London’s UK passport-holding population born outside the UK, and 22.7% of London passport-holding population recorded as non-UK passport holders.  With the impact of the current migrant influx, one can only assume London’s diversity will continue on an upward trend; and as we’ve explored in previous blogs, this can bring significant benefit to the wider community in economic, social and cultural terms. In the words of the authors, ‘whatever your views, there is no doubt that generations of migrants – Irish, Jewish, Indian, Jamaican and Polish, to name just a few – have helped shape the city we know today.’

2) ‘EthniCity’

Based on self-reported ethnicity data, fewer than 45% of Londoners consider themselves ‘White British’. Put another way, that places over half of London’s population in the ethnic minority categories. That’s powerful data, but one has to ask to what extent businesses and communities cater for this level of diversity in their approach to inclusivity, and what more could be done in this regard. Thankfully companies are increasingly sitting up and taking notice of the need for robust diversity and inclusion policies and agendas, but there’s little doubt that the journey to a more inclusive London has only just begun.

3) Tourist London

16.8 million tourist visitors, £11 billion tourist pounds spent (data from 2013). These are staggering figures. London has long been a popular travel destination, attracting visitors from all around the world. Our architecture, heritage, shopping, culture, and famous London attractions draw international visitors in in their droves. The London Olympics ‘sealed the deal’ not only in putting London on the global map as a tourist destination, but also as model hosts offering a warm welcome to our international guests. From cheerful and helpful Games Makers, to the sense of pride and loyalty exuding from Londoners during the Games, there’s no doubt that, as a host city, we embraced the multi-culturalism of the Olympics period.


As the diversity calendar is this week marked by Social Media Week, what better way to reflect on the diversity of London than through its virtual ink stamp. Thanks to the ‘location sharing’ functionality of Twitter, Cheshire and Uberti have created a map of dots representing the 9.4 million tweets sent in a one year period from London and its outskirts, colour coded by the home country of the sender. The result reads like an Ishihara Test, and shows the incredible density of diversity in our capital city.

It springs to mind that, at some point during the making of this book, the authors must have had a heart-sinking realisation that it would be no sooner published than fall out of date. London, like anywhere, is a constantly evolving and emerging city. That said, what a remarkable time capsule they have created of the diversity of life in London in 2014. Long may such diversity continue.


Reference: Cheshire, J., & Uberti, O (2014), London, The Information Capital, Great Britain: Particular Books.


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