It was inevitable that the yellow press would latch onto the University of Leeds' School of Geography working paper on 'Ethnic Population Projections for the UK and Local Areas, 2001-2051' as an opportunity to launch into a bout of immigration-bashing and/or rekindle the 'immigration-led population boom' scare [see: 'The Myth Of The 70 Million'] that is one of their perennial favourites. Their efforts to push all the right racist buttons (or should that be 'blow the correct dog whistles'?) provided mixed results.
The Express clearly came top of the list in plumbing new depths (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphors) with its typically shouty and patently obvious racist headline 'ONE IN 5 BRITONS WILL BE ETHNICS'(sic)*
Getting right down to the nitty gritty, without of course explaining what the Leeds paper is actually about, they essayed:
"ONE in five of Britain’s population will be from an ethnic minority by the middle of the century, an explosive report forecasts today.
The figure will rocket from the current level of eight per cent to 20 per cent over the next 40 years, it concludes.
And the ethnic profile of middle-class suburban and rural areas will change significantly as black and Asian families move out of inner-city areas, it says. Overall, the UK’s total population will soar from its present 61 million to 78 million over the same period."
[Translation: Two and a half times as many foreigners 40 years from now and, to top it all, they'll be moving out of the ghettos that we've managed to restrict them to up til now and moving out to where we leave. Plus they'll continue breeding like rabbits. Woe, woe and thrice woe.]
And just in case you had missed the implication the Express wished to highlight:
"The report, by researchers at the University of Leeds, will fuel fears that Britain faces acute overcrowding in the next generation, intensifying pressure on the Government to curb immigration." Utter tosh, which anyone who has read the Leeds paper knows but what Express reader is likely to do so?
Like so much of their immigration coverage this year, the Mail came a paltry second to the Express' bile and could only manage the rather limp 'One in five Britons 'will be from an ethnic minority by 2051''.
"UK population will rocket to 78million by middle of century
One in five of the population will be from an ethnic minority by the middle of this century, according to a new report.
Researchers concluded that the figure will rocket from the current rate of eight per cent - and that people from minority backgrounds will be living in more affluent areas.
Just one in ten of the population was from an ethnic minority ten years ago."
Rather limp really compared to Desmond's rag. And just to show you how little effort Jack Doyle, the article's author, put in, the next two lines are:
"Researchers at The University of Leeds also concluded that the population of the UK could reach nearly 80million by the middle of this century.
Higher birth rates and people living longer as well as immigration would pushed the population to 78.8million by 2051."
Clearly Mr Doyle is still learning his trade at the Mail and has made the mistake of both qualifying the 80m figure and of allowing that something other than immigration might be a causal factor behind the population growth. No doubt he'll learn his lesson and be parroting the house style fluently before soon.
Compared to both these efforts, Desmond's other 'newspaper' the Star's article was positively wishy washy: 'Changing Faces Of Britain 2050'! Sounds like something out of the national Geographic. Yet none of them managed to plumb the depths of racist stupidity that the Press and Journal, an Aberdeen-based DC Thompson publication, stooped to: 'Immigrants to make up 20% of UK population'. Priceless.
So what about this research project, which we assume none of these well-paid 'journalists' have bothered to read? The Economic and Social Research Council-financed project is part an on-going effort by the Leeds University geography department to "understand demographic changes that the UK’s local ethnic populations presently experience and will experience in the future."
"We are investigating how differences in ethnic fertility and mortality shape current and future population trends, how international migration and internal migration impact the size and ethnic composition of local populations. The project team will build projections of ethnic group populations for local areas and use the projection model to explore alternative futures."
This involves the modelling of 5 separate projections based on different sets of assumptions for mortality/fertility/immigration/emigration for 16 ethnic groups, which inevitably display hugely varying end results, even when allowing for 'aggregation effects'. The end point of this modelling is to produce a form of population projection that takes into account differences in the dynamics of the various ethnic groupings selected, the 2 so-called UPTAP (Understanding Population Trends and Processes) models.
And inevitably, the media have focused on the 'worst case scenario', the (UPTAP-EF - emigration flow) model that produces the highest population growth, rather than their other (UPTAP-ER - emigration rate) model. In fact, as the paper points out "UPTAP-EF and UPTAP-ER produce total populations in 2051 that differ by 9.1 millions."
The reasons for these differences and the merits of the different projects are too complex to go into here but we would like to highlight one of the report's conclusions, where it compares its results with previously released ONS estimates for ethnic groups in 2007 [i.e. NPP 2008].
"We compare the latest in this series, for mid-2007, with our projections for mid-2007. The differences over just six years are considerable. Our figure for the England population is 359 thousand greater than that of ONS or 0.70% greater. Our estimates for the White population are larger than those of ONS while our ethnic minority estimates are lower. Some of the lower figures for Asian or Asian British groups or Black or Black British groups may be a result of introducing ethnic specific mortality as these groups had lower life expectancies than the total population.
That we should obtain such different estimates over a very short period is concerning and will need to be investigated in detail. The differences serve to highlight that there is a great deal of uncertainty in estimating the population broken down by ethnicity."
* For other analysis of the Express' obvious racist intent see: Five Chinese Crackers, Enemies of Reason and Tabloid Watch.