East London boroughs will need to be a particular focal point of the PM’s £20 million language tuition fund as around a third of Muslim women in Tower Hamlets and Hackney have English difficulties. Across the capital 17% of Muslim women speak little or no English. They far outnumber the men.
Data from the 2011 census, which asked people about their religion and proficiency in English, shows that there are nearly 100,000 Muslims in London who say that their English is poor. 63% of them are women, the same proportion as for England.
A further 19,000 speak no English at all. 75% or 14,000 are women. The majority are over 45.
These figures also show that more than 2,000 of the non-English speaking Muslims are school-age children between 3 and 15.
Urbs looked at the data at borough level for Muslim women who are unable to speak any English. They are concentrated in East London in Tower Hamlets and Newham.
The Prime Minister has been criticised for singling out Muslim women in his pronouncement on the need for more English tuition to help combat extremism. Many people pointed out that his government previously cut the budget for English tuition for migrants. While Muslim women are the largest group, people of other faiths also lack a command of English.
The census data shows that the second biggest faith group for non English speakers is Christians. More than 12,000 do not speak English, quite evenly divided between men and women. There are also more than 5,000 Hindus, largely women, who do not speak English.
The latest data for all these figures comes from 2011, since when there has been a large influx of people coming to work in the UK from Central and Southern Europe. Many have limited ability in English.
The PM chose to target Muslim women in linking command of English with combating extremist views, but the broader problem of a lack of language skill and its impact upon society and the workforce may be a bigger, multi-faith or no faith problem.