Public sector equality duty - our population

Ethnicity and race:

The borough is characterised by hyper-diversity, which means that there are sizeable and established communities, but also many smaller, newer groups:

  • Approximately 41% of Tower Hamlets residents were born outside the UK, just above the average for Inner London (39%). The 2001 census identified borough residents from over 130 different countries; this is likely to have increased further over the past ten years.
  • 50% of our residents are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds compared with the London average of 35%. Within the borough’s BME population, the largest ethnic group is the Bangladeshi population, who account for one third of all residents.


Women make up 50.2% of the population. But there are differences across groups for example the borough is a place of inward migration and within this group there are many more women (57.7%) than men (42.2%).


During the 2001 census 78% of residents stated that they have a religious belief, which is significantly higher than the national average:

  • 39% of people identified themselves as Christian. Older people make up a larger proportion of the Christian population than those from other religion/belief groups. Christian communities are varied in terms of ethnicity.
  • The borough has the highest proportion of Muslim people of any local authority area in the country, at 36.4%.
  • 14% of people described themselves as having no religious belief, which makes them the third largest religion / belief group in the borough.

Sexual orientation:

It is difficult to estimate the size and profile of the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) population in the borough as sexual orientation was not a specific category used in the last census, however:

  • A national survey indicates that LGB people make up around 10% of the population in London.
  • Although the census did not ask specific questions around sexual orientation, it did ask about those who were living in same sex couples. This revealed that the borough has the fifth largest reported number of cohabiting same sex couples nationally, and the fourth largest in London.


We have one of the youngest populations in the country with the 3rd highest proportion of 20 - 34 year olds in England:

  • Older residents over 60 make up 10% of the borough’s population. This is less than national and London averages but there is a high level of expressed need for adult health and wellbeing services.
  • The borough’s BME population is far younger than the White population, of all residents aged 0 to 19 in the borough 79% are from BME backgrounds (59% are from Bangladeshi backgrounds and 20% from other BME groups).


The 2001 census revealed that there are estimated 1.4 million disabled people living in London with 35,000 living in Tower Hamlets:

  • The census also recorded that 17% of Tower Hamlets residents reported that they had a 'limiting long term illness' compared to 15.1% in London.
  • In 2009 over eleven thousand people in Tower Hamlets claimed Incapacity Benefit – 7% of the working age population.

Income and poverty:

Cutting across these dimensions of identity are wider issues of income poverty, deprivation, high unemployment, high levels of social housing and significant health inequalities. These factors add a further dimension to equalities work as set out by the range of protected characteristics, covered by the Equality Act.

  • Our unemployment rate is 12.7 % compared to a London average of 7.6 %. · 58 % of people in the borough live in social housing compared to a London average of 25%;
  • 55 % of pupils are eligible for free school meals;
  • The difference in life expectancy varies by up to eight years across different parts of the borough.

Population churn:

Our population also experiences a high level of churn, with 8th highest rate of turnover in London and the 11th highest in England. In 2009/10 this meant over 56,000 people moved within, in or out of the borough.

A more detailed population briefing is also available.


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