Christians have become a minority in England and Wales for the first time, official data shows

29 November 2022, 10:33 | Updated: 29 November 2022, 11:04

The Office for National Statistics has revealed new data
The Office for National Statistics has revealed new data. Picture: ONS/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The number of people who describe themselves as Christian in England and Wales has fallen below 50 per cent for the first time, the Office for National Statistics data has revealed.

Every other religion in the country has seen an increase or stayed the same as the data also shows number of people identifying as Muslim has increased by 1.2 million to 3.9 million between 2011 and 2021.

Christians are still the largest religious group in England and Wales at 46.2 per cent of the population, with those with 'no religion' in second with 37.2 per cent - a rise of 12 per cent during the same period.

The data shows that England and Wales have "left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian," according to the Archbishop of York.

London was the most religiously diverse region of England as 25.3 per cent reported a religion other than “Christian”. This figure was 4.2 per cent in the North East and 3.2 per cent in the South West, making those regions the least religiously diverse.

Some 81.7 per cent of residents in the two countries self-identified as white on the day of the 2021 census, down from 86.0 per cent a decade earlier, the ONS said.

The second most common ethnic group in England and Wales was "Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh" standing at 9.3 per cent, an increase from 7.5% in 2011.

England and Wales' ethnic breakdown
England and Wales' ethnic breakdown. Picture: ONS

The number of people identifying their ethnic group as white in England and Wales has also fallen by around half a million over the last decade.

The census data was taken in 2021
The census data was taken in 2021. Picture: ONS

Read More: England hope to finish strong in Group B's Battle of Britain as Wales need miracle - full guide

Read More: 'Call us to report corrupt cops', say Met Police bosses, after string of officer scandals

The number of people using English as a main language in 2021 in England and Wales has also fallen from 92.3 per cent in 2011 of usual residents aged over three compared to 91.1 per cent.

The most common main languages other than English (English or Welsh in Wales) in 2021 were:

  • Polish (1.1%, 612,000)
  • Romanian (0.8%, 472,000)
  • Panjabi (0.5%, 291,000)
  • Urdu (0.5%, 270,000)

The Romanian language saw the biggest increase in usage in 2021, with over 0.8 per cent (472,000) using it as their main language. This is up from 0.1 per cent (68,000) in 2011.

The number of people with English as a main language has fallen
The number of people with English as a main language has fallen. Picture: ONS

The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell said: "It's not a great surprise that the Census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known."

Census deputy director Jon Wroth-Smith said: "Today's data highlights the increasingly multi-cultural society we live in.

"The percentage of people identifying their ethnic group as 'White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British', continues to decrease.

"Whilst this remains the most common response to the ethnic group question, the number of people identifying with another ethnic group continues to increase.

"However, the picture varies depending on where you live. London remains the most ethnically diverse region of England, where just under two-thirds identify with an ethnic minority group, whereas under 1 in 10 identify this way in the North East.

"But despite the ethnically diverse nature of society, 9 in 10 people across England and Wales still identify with a UK national identity, with nearly 8 in 10 doing so in London."