The Office for National Statistics has attempted to redress the gaps in the availability of up-to-date estimates of the size of the different religious populations, by combining Annual Population Survey (APS)/household surveys, conducted between 2014 and 2016, and the most recent UK census, which took place in 2011, to produce illustration population estimates. Released in December, though not official statistics, this has provided a sense of religious allegiances in the UK. Until now religious and ethnic minority populations could only be assessed using the results of the full-scale ten-yearly national census.
According to these estimates, Muslims have become the fastest-growing faith group in England, and the Muslim population, for the first time ever would now exceed 3 million; this would make it the second-largest religious group in the country. The proportion of English citizens who identify as Christians has slowed down in this decade, compared to the 2000s. The number of those reporting no religious affiliation has increased too, accounting for 32.8 percent, up 0.9 percent from 2011. The share of Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs remained virtually the same.
This is the first time illustrative estimates of population by religion have been produced using this method. Having recognised that data on religion is not routinely collected or reported on, the ONS has also been working on exploring further how the data needs of religious communities could be better met, with an initial review of existing published statistics on religion and equalities focusing on outcomes across the six domains from the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) measurement framework: education; work; living standards; health; justice and personal security; and participation.