(UK) United Kingdom – research into national policy, community arts and general country background

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four constituent countriesEnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales. The latter three of these are devolved administrations, each with varying powers.

The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land surface and was the largest empire in history. The UK is a developed country and has the world’s seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world’s first industrialised country and the world’s foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK is a member of the European Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization.

England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres (50,350 sq mi).  Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, with mountainous terrain in the north and north-west. England is a highly developed country with many large cities and towns as well as more rural areas. There are also important areas of natural beauty including protected areas such as National Parks.

The organisation of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to local arrangements. Legislation concerning local government in England is the responsibility of the UK parliament and the Government of the United Kingdom, as England has no devolved parliament. The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nine Government office regions or European Union government office regions. One region, Greater London, has had a directly elected assembly and mayor since 2000 following popular support for the proposal in a referendum. Below the regional tier, some parts of England have county councils and district councils and others have unitary authorities; while London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London. The UK’s three major political parties are the Conservative Party (on the right), the Labour Party (historically socialist) and the Liberal Democrats. During the 2010 general election these three parties won 622 out of 650 seats available in the House of Commons. The Conservatives entered into a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats to form the current Government.

The UK service sector makes up around 73% of GDP. London is the world’s largest financial centre alongside New York, and has the largest city GDP in Europe. Tourism is very important to the British economy and, with over 27 million tourists arriving in 2004, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world and London has the most international visitors of any city in the world. The creative industries accounted for 7% GVA in 2005 and grew at an average of 6% per annum between 1997 and 2005.

The Industrial Revolution started in the UK with an initial concentration on the textile industry, followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, and steelmaking. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. As other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 16.7% of national output in 2003.

In the final quarter of 2008 the UK economy officially entered recession for the first time since 1991. Unemployment increased from 5.2% in May 2008 to 7.6% in May 2009 and by January 2012 the unemployment rate among 18 to 24-year-olds had risen from 11.9% to 22.5%, the highest since current records began in 1992. Total UK government debt rose from 44.4% of GDP in 2007 to 82.9% of GDP in 2011.

The poverty line in the UK is commonly defined as being 60% of the median household income.  In 2007–2008 13.5 million people, or 22% of the population, lived below this line. This is a higher level of relative poverty than all but four other EU members. In the same year 4.0 million children, 31% of the total, lived in households below the poverty line after housing costs were taken into account. This is a decrease of 400,000 children since 1998–1999. The UK imports 40% of its food supplies.

census is taken simultaneously in all parts of the UK every ten years. In the 2011 census the total population of the United Kingdom was 63,181,775. It is the third largest in the European Union, the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. 2010 was the third successive year in which natural change contributed more to population growth than net long-term international migration. Between 2001 and 2011 the population increased by an average annual rate of approximately 0.7 per cent. The 2011 census also confirmed that the proportion of the population aged 0–14 has nearly halved (31 per cent in 1911 compared to 18 in 2011) and the proportion of older people aged 65 and over has more than trebled (from 5 to 16 per cent). England’s population in 2011 was found to be 53 million. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 383 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2003, with a particular concentration in London and the south-east.

Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be descended from the various ethnic groups that settled there before the 11th century: the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Welsh people could be the oldest ethnic group in the UK. The UK has a history of small-scale non-white immigration, with Liverpool having the oldest Black population in the country dating back to at least the 1730s, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century. In 1950 there were probably fewer than 20,000 non-white residents in Britain, almost all born overseas. Since 1945 substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups but, as of 2008, the trend is reversing and many of these migrants are returning home, leaving the size of these groups unknown. As of 2001, 92.1% of the population identified themselves as White, leaving 7.9% of the UK population identifying themselves as mixed race or of an ethnic minority.

Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London’s population was estimated to be non-white as of June 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census. As of 2011, 26.5% of primary and 22.2% of secondary pupils at state schools in England are members of an ethnic minority.

In 2009, official estimates have shown that the non-white British population of England and Wales has increased by 38% from 6.6 million in 2001 to 9.1 million in 2009.

In the 2001 census 71.6% of all respondents indicated that they were Christians, with the next largest faiths (by number of adherents) being Islam (2.8%), Hinduism (1.0%),  Sikhism (0.6%), Judaism (0.5%), Buddhism (0.3%) and all other religions (0.3%). 15% of respondents stated that they had no religion, with a further 7% not stating a religious preference.

The United Kingdom has experienced successive waves of migration. Over 120,000 Polish veterans settled in Britain after World War II, unable to return home. There was significant immigration from the colonies and newly independent former colonies, driven largely by post-World War II labour shortages. Many of these migrants came from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent.

Analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that a net total of 2.3 million migrants moved to the UK in the 15 years from 1991 to 2006. 195,046 foreign nationals became British citizens in 2010 and a record 241,192 people were granted permanent settlement rights in 2010, of whom 51 per cent were from Asia and 27 per cent from Africa.

Research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute for the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that, between May 2004 and September 2009, 1.5 million workers migrated from the new EU member states to the UK, two-thirds of them Polish, but that many subsequently returned home, resulting in a net increase in the number of nationals of the new member states in the UK of some 700,000 over that period. The late-2000s recession in the UK reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK, with the migration becoming temporary and circular. In 2009, for the first time since enlargement, more nationals of the eight central and eastern European states that had joined the EU in 2004 left the UK than arrived.

Education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, though the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local authorities. Universally free of charge state education was introduced piecemeal between 1870 and 1944, and is now mandatory from ages five to sixteen. The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools with over 7% attending private schools.  The universities of England include some of the top universities in the world.

Public healthcare is provided to all UK permanent residents and is free at the point of need, being paid for from general taxation. The World Health Organization, in 2000, ranked the provision of healthcare in the United Kingdom as fifteenth best in Europe and eighteenth in the world.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom

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