The United Kingdom
Nigel Goldie and Liz Sayce
The United Kingdom in northwest Europe consists of one large island (Britain), a small part of a second island (Northern Ireland), and a number of lesser islands scattered around the coasts. It comprises four constituent countries or regions: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The total land covered is 94,500 square miles.
The population is 57,200,000, concentrated heavily in urban centers in England. Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are predominantly rural. Women outnumber men: 29,300,000 women as compared to 27,900,000 men. People under eighteen account for 13 million and those over sixty-five for 10.5 million. The elderly population is rising steadily and is expected to peak at 14.5 million in the year 2034 (Office of Population and Census, 1989).
The United Kingdom is historically a multiethnic area and has experienced successive waves of immigration of groups including Normans ( eleventh century), Huguenots ( sixteenth century), Jewish people ( nineteenth century), and Eastern Europeans ( twentieth century). In the second half of the twentieth century significant immigration occurred from newly independent ex-British colonies, notably countries in the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent, to fill a postwar labor shortage. Since 1971 immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive and effectively discriminates against black people, although white immigration from British Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada continues. Present-day Britain includes approximately 2.5 million people from black and ethnic minority communities, including sizeable Afro-Caribbean, Asian, and Irish groups and smaller populations such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek and Turkish Cypriot, Polish, and Somali. Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland,