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 43 percent of Tower Hamlets residents were born outside the UK, slightly above the average for Inner London (42 per cent). The 2011 census identified borough residents from over 200 different countries.
  • 55 per cent of our residents are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds compared with the London average of 40 per cent. 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 48.5 per cent of the population. The overall rate for the Tower Hamlets is 106 males per 100 females, compared with 98 per 100 for London, and 97 per 100 for England.

There are some significant imbalances in specific age bands – with the greatest imbalance in the 40-44 age range where it reaches 132 males for every 100 females and is significantly different from London and National averages.


Tower Hamlets is the only local authority where the Muslim population is the largest single religious group. In all other areas the Christian population is the largest.

  • 27 per cent 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 35 per cent.
  • 19 per cent 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

  • national survey indicates that LGB people make up around 10 per cent 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.


  • The borough has the lowest median age in the country at 29 along with Newham, compared to the London average median age of 33.
  • Almost half of all residents in the borough (49 per cent) are aged between 20 and 39.
  • Nationally, Tower Hamlets has the lowest proportion of residents aged over 65 at 6.1 per cent of the population. This is significantly lower than the London average of 11.1 per cent and 16.3 per cent of residents in England.


  • In 2001, the disability rate was 172 per 1,000 residents. In 2011, the rate has gone down to 135 per 1,000 residents.
  • 20,840 households in the borough (20.6 per cent) contain one person with a long-term health problem or disability, a lower proportion than in London (22.4 per cent) and England (25.7 per cent).
  • In May 2013, a total of 12,260 residents were claiming either ESA or incapacity benefits in Tower Hamlets. This represents 6.2 per cent 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.

  • The unemployment rate in the borough has remained the same only changing by 0.1 percentage point from 6.6 per cent in 2001.
  • 13,259 residents were unemployed in the borough on Census day. This translates to a rate of 6.7 per cent substantially above the 5.2 per cent in London and 4.4 per cent in England
  • In Tower Hamlets, 27,430 working age claimants were in receipt of out-of-work benefits as at May 2015 - this represents around 16 per cent of the working age population.
  • Social rented households as a proportion of total households in the borough fell from 52.5 per cent in 2001 to 39.6 per cent in 2011. This is well above the average for London (26.2 per cent) and close to that of Inner London (38 per cent).

Population Churn

The 2011 Census showed that Tower Hamlets has had the fastest growing population of any local authority in the country over the last 10 years. At 254,100 usual residents, the population has increased by 29 per cent since 2001 (57,990 additional residents).

A more detailed population briefing is also available on the population demography page.