Sikhs, Kashmiris among new categories considered for UK census

By: | Published: February 22, 2017 1:10 AM

Sikhs and Kashmiris are among new categories being considered for additional ethnicity tick-boxes on the 2021 census form by the UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Sikhs and Kashmiris are among new categories being considered for additional ethnicity tick-boxes on the 2021 census form by the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS). (Reuters)

Sikhs and Kashmiris are among new categories being considered for additional ethnicity tick-boxes on the 2021 census form by the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS). “We are a long way off as there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to ensure that the census held every 10 years collects all the right information. Ethnicity is just one aspect of this research and Sikhs and Kashmiris are among a number of requests we received,” an ONS spokesperson said.

Sikhs are already recognised as a separate religion in the optional religious question introduced in the 2001 Census. The UK’s Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 placed an obligatory and specific duty on the country’s public authorities to monitor and positively promote race equality in the provision of public services. Sikh groups based in the UK have been campaigning for a separate category for British Sikhs for years and are hopeful that research launched this week to inform the census questionnaire will lead to such a change.

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“If the Census 2021 ethnicity question does not include a Sikh tick box question, the impact from a service user perspective will continue to grow and result in Sikhs being invisible to those who develop policies and deliver public services,” Sikh Federation UK and Sikh Network said as part of their representations to the ONS. “This will span across the inequalities observed by Sikhs in health, education, employment etc,” it said.

For Kashmiris, Manchester City Council expressed the view that adding such a category would help them benchmark their services for the community. “Including Kashmiri in the Census will allow us to benchmark our practice and the outcomes of Manchester’s Kashmiri population with the rest of the UK,” the council said.

Gypsy, Jewish, Latin American, Somali and Turkish are among some of the other ethnicities that are being considered as part of a UK-wide survey of nearly 40,000 households which began yesterday. The results of the survey will be analysed and published later this year before a ‘Census White Paper’ is prepared for Parliament by 2018.

According to British Sikh groups, public bodies tend to only reference the ethnic groups used in the census and demand a separate Sikh ethnic tick box to ensure Sikhs have fair access to all public services. “We have started our awareness campaign to ensure as many Sikh households as possible, probably around 2,000 each in Hounslow and Wolverhampton, take part in the survey. We are in the process of liaising with MPs, local councilors and Gurdwaras to provide any assistance necessary with those who require help in completing the online survey as we would during the Census itself,” said Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of Sikh Federation UK.

“We have also told ONS legal action will be taken on the basis of unlawful racial discrimination by ONS under the Equality Act 2010 if a separate Sikh ethnic tick box for the Census 2021 is not recommended when proposals are presented to Parliament in the Census White Paper in 2018,” he said.

The UK has been collating ethnic group data since the census of 1991 and the data is used for resource allocation by central and local government, to inform policy development and to help organisations meet and monitor their statutory obligations.

The ONS explained that questions used for the census have evolved to remain relevant to contemporary British society and phraseology of the census questionnaire is targeted to ensure the public and data users have complete clarity.

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