THE WAY WE LIVE NOW: HOW ARE BRITAIN'S MINORITIES DOING?
One way of observing the power of culture is to look at two groups with similar starting points but rather different outcomes. For example, Indian Sikhs and Pakistani Muslims often arrived in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s from similar backgrounds as small farmers in different parts of the (partitioned) rural Punjab* and Kashmir, and came mainly to do basic manual jobs in British factories. The Sikhs were often slightly better educated, and more of them landed in the generally prosperous south-east of England, but why have they done much better on most conventional measures than the Pakistanis?
Religion made many Muslim Pakistanis* of the pioneer generation feel ambivalent about British life and people, while the Biraderi system of family and clan connections meant strong diaspora links to Kashmir. But something similar was true for many Sikh families too. Both groups also often looked for marriage partners from outside Britain. But where Pakistanis sought, and often still seek, non-English-speaking spouses from their extended family in Pakistan, Sikh marriage partners, if they come from outside Britain at all, are more likely to be from the English-speaking Sikh diaspora. Sikhs also had the advantage of a cultural self-confidence derived from their role in the British empire and from being part of a worldwide immigrant network; moreover, the Sikh religion promotes self-reliance and does not discourage women from working.
There is another important difference concerning language. Sikhs are expected to work with two languages: Punjabi, a written language which is also the language of their sacred scriptures, and English; this contrasts with Pakistanis (from Kashmir), who are expected to operate across four languages: Mirpuri Punjabi at home, an oral language not generally available in written script; Urdu, the language of Islamic preaching and high Islamic culture in South Asia; English; and Quranic Arabic. Moreover, although both religions are similarly rooted in collective ritual, Sikhs will usually expect their children only to attend a gurdwara* on a Saturday morning for religious education. Many Pakistani children, especially in the north of England, are expected to spend two hours a day five days a week for six years from the age of five or six in a madrasa after school, and most of this time is spent learning Quranic Arabic by heart. As Andrey Kosowsky, a Rotherham-based English teacher, has explained: this means that primary schoolchildren are spending more time learning Quranic Arabic by rote than English.
People from both backgrounds often faced similar discrimination when they arrived in Britain. With little help from the authorities, both were thrown back on their own extended family networks and religious institutions. But while Pakistanis drew a defensive shield around themselves (especially when families and women arrived) that both protected and limited them, many more Sikhs by contrast began to battle their way into British society, so that today they are better represented in the professional and managerial class.
One test of who has been upwardly mobile and who hasn't can be found on the British high street — in the corner shops and restaurants run by people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese background. All four of those groups were over-represented in self-employment on the high street in the first generation. Today, rates of self-employment have fallen quite sharply for those of Chinese and Indian background, as the next generation have gone on to become lawyers, accountants and teachers — living the British dream —while many Pakistanis and Bangladeshis remain in low-status self-employment.
Minorities, including recent immigrants, tend on average to have a slightly lower employment rate than the white British, but South Asian Muslims are way below the average (second only in recent years to Somalis). Taking Pakistani — and Bangladeshi — background adults together, less than half are in conventional paid employment. That is partly because men are disproportionately in self-employment, part-time work or unemployed. But far and away the biggest reason is that only about 25 per cent of women from these backgrounds work outside the home.
The main reason for this is not because women are being excluded from the labour market but because for religious and cultural reasons women focus on family and child-rearing (and still tend to have significantly larger families than the white average). This is starting to change among younger women but remains very powerful, even for those who are getting good qualifications.
The generally low earnings of the men and the usually non-existent earnings of the women means that Pakistani and Bangladeshi households are hugely over-represented in the poverty and welfare figures. According to IPPR research published in 2007, Pakistani-born immigrants are three times more likely to be on income support and twice as likely to be on disability benefit as their British peers. About three-quarters of all Bangladeshi children are classified as poor. Indeed, as I have already pointed out, minority households are twice as likely to be poor as white households and that higher figure is driven by Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Somalis with a contribution from other black Africans and Caribbeans.
The British Dream - Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration by David Goodhart, Atlantic Books, London 2013, pp. 61-63
* Punjab - Punjab is located in northwestern India. In 1947 the Punjab Province of British India was partitioned along religious lines into West Punjab and East Punjab. After the partition of India in 1947, the Punjab province of British India was divided between India and Pakistan. The Indian Punjab was divided in 1966 with the formation of the new states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, as well as the current state of Punjab. Punjab is the only state in India with a majority Sikh population. It is bounded on the west by Pakistan, on the north by Kashmir. Immediately following independence in 1947, and due to the ensuing communal violence and fear, most Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus who found themselves in Pakistan migrated to India. Punjabi Muslims were uprooted similarly from their homes in East Punjab, which now forms part of India.
* Muslim Pakistanis - many of which came from teh Mirpuri region. Consanguineous marriage has been widespread within the Pakistani Mirpuri community in Britain today. Since such marriages are often arranged with partners from Pakistan to aid the extended family fi nancially, large-scale immigration from Pakistan into Britain continues. Many of these new spouses cannot speak English and are unfamiliar with English culture, which continues to slow down the pace of integration of Mirpuris.
* gurdwara - meaning the gateway to the guru, is the place of worship for Sikhs however people of all faiths are welcomed in the Gurdwara. The gurdwara has a Darbar Sahib where the Guru Granth Sahib is seen and a Langar where people can eat free food. A gurdwara may also have a library, nursery, and classroom.
1. Compare the Biraderi system of the Muslim Pakistanis with the Sikh religion and their marriage habits and say why one has succeeded over the other.
2. Looking at the differences in language between Muslim Pakistanis and Sikhs, why did Sikhs do better in England than Pakistanis?
3. Concerning employment, why have Indians and Chinese succeeded in living the British dream in contrast to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis?
4. What does the burden on the British welfare system caused by immigrants look like?
5. How can integration of immigrants better be achieved than in the past? Think of improvements by learning from 'old mistakes' that have been made as well as completely new ideas (you can refer to the UK and compare with the German situation).