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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds London is Europe’s third-largest city after Istanbul and Moscow with an estimated population of over 8 million in 2016. Nearly 40% of this population was born outside the UK. Again, of these, 1/3 were born in EU countries and 2/3 outside the EU. The most common country of birth is India. According to the 2011 census, there were over 260,000 people living in London who were born in India. In terms of ethnicity, about 60% of London’s population considered themselves white, 18.5% Asian, 13% black, and 5% of mixed ethnicity, and over 3% other. London is a very diverse city also in terms of religion.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds According to the latest census data, just under half of Londoners consider themselves to be Christian, 12% Muslim, 5% Hindu, nearly 2% Jewish, 1.5% Sikh, 1% Buddhists. Over 20% of the respondents stated they followed no religion. The ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity of this city is largely the result of a vibrant and extroverted economy and a cosmopolitan makeup that have attracted foreign workers, both at the top-end managerial jobs such as those in the City of London finance sector or in the cultural industries and at the lower end of the labour market in the low-paid service jobs in transport, construction, cleaning, and catering sectors.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds During the last 20 years, both Conservative and Labour governments have favoured schemes that push both migrant and native unemployed into low-paid work. Fiscal austerity, hence cuts in the welfare and health systems and in public housing, labour-market deregulation where migrant workers are seen as units of labour rather than as persons, coupled with investment in the financial and business services have accelerated processes of deindustrialization and generated a boom in consumption and tourism and a shift of employment to a polarised structure where migrants keep the city working by cleaning its offices and streets, keeping its transport system working, caring for its elderly and the children, waitering at its restaurants and buzzing cafes while those at the top jobs enjoy affluent consumerism and cosmopolitan lifestyles.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds Jobs at the top and at the bottom have expanded while the middle-level jobs have been disappearing. At the same time, rights of low-income migrant workers have been increasingly restricted. Conditions for family reunification have become more burdensome. Long-term permits for settlement have been reduced, making processes highly bureaucratized. And access to welfare and other state benefits has been increasingly restricted. Over the last decade, migrants have been portrayed as welfare scroungers by both the media and by state campaigns against irregular migrants.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds And while London’s constant evolution as a global city and as a migration magnet has a lot to do with global economic processes that are beyond national and city authorities’ control, a lot can be done to protect and support people at the lower end of the gradient and make sure their rights are respected.

Migrants in London’s economy: An hourglass model

This video provides an overview of migrant settlement in the global city of London

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This video is from the free online course:

Migration and Cities

European University Institute (EUI)