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Driving positive change to make a difference

Knowing our communities: the regional equality challenge

Knowing the facts about inequality helps us to decide what the most important problems are and what we need to do to about them. Here are some important statistics on the West Midlands, taken from the 2011 Census.


The West Midlands Metropolitan Area includes Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. In mid-2018, the population was 2,916,458.

Population density (how many people live in a particular area) is highest in Birmingham and lowest in Solihull. In the Metropolitan Area there are 31.8 people per hectare. This is much higher than the England average of 4.2.

The area has the second-highest birth rate in the UK. As the population grows and changes, the region’s needs will change. For example, we will need more homes and better transport links. Changes could also put more pressure on the environment.

Race and ethnic background

The region has the largest non-white population in the UK outside London. Asian and Asian British people make up the largest group after White British people. But many other ethnic groups live here. As the population grows, this diversity will probably grow too.

Faith or belief

People are more likely to say that they are religious here than in England overall.


The split between the sexes) is similar to in England and Wales as a whole: 50.5% of people are female and 49.5% are male.


Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe. Nearly 40% of residents are under 25. More people are under 16 than in many other UK regions. The over-65 population is smaller than the UK average, except in Solihull and Walsall.

Sexual orientation

In 2018, 2.3% of the West Midlands population said that they were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Organisations that support gay, lesbian and bisexual people say that the real figure is higher: between 5% and 7%.


In this area, 6% of households include someone with a limiting long-term illness. The average for England and Wales is 4.7%. The proportion of people who are disabled (19%) is slightly higher than for England and Wales (18%).

Social inequality

Almost half of households in the region are in one of the 20% most-deprived areas in England. Birmingham is the most deprived local authority in the region: it is seventh out of 317 English authorities for deprivation. All of our local authority areas except Solihull are in the top 100 local authorities in the country for deprivation. Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell are in the top 25.

Unemployment is higher here than it is nationally. Birmingham’s unemployment rate of 7.8% is the second highest in the country. The average income is below the national average. Lots of jobs are low-paid and low-skilled. Unemployment is higher for young people. This is linked to qualifications: about 30% of young people in the Metropolitan area have fewer than five GCSEs. More working-age people here have no qualifications than in any other English region.

Even households where someone is in work can be affected by poverty. This is because of low wages, zero-hours contracts, insecure jobs and the cost of housing. Only half of people in the region can afford to buy a house. Three out of ten people under 40 can only afford to live here because of social housing Fewer people own a house or live in social housing than in the past, and more people rent privately. This often means bad living conditions, high rent and little security. Around one-fifth of neighbourhoods have high levels of overcrowding and poor housing.

Digital inequalities are a problem: 13% of residents have never sent an online message or email (nationally, the figure is 7.8%). More people are not online in this region than in England overall.

Poverty also affects health and wellbeing. The West Midlands has the highest percentage of obese (very overweight) adults in England. Almost one-third of residents spend less than half an hour a week exercising. This is two hours less than the recommended minimum. By the age of 11, one-quarter of children are already more at risk from health problems linked to unhealthy lifestyles, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and anxiety and depression due to obesity. People in poorer households are also much more likely to have mental health issues.

People from ethnic minorities, disabled people, young people and women are more likely to be poor, to be unemployed or in poor jobs, and to have low levels of qualifications and skills. They are less likely to own a house or have a mortgage. They are more likely to live in deprived areas and to suffer because of physical and mental health inequalities. The poverty rate is as high as 50% for Black people, people of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin, and disabled people.


The Covid-19 pandemic has made inequalities worse. The people with protected characteristics who have been worst affected are young people, older people, women, single parents (90% of whom are women), people from lower socio- economic groups and with less education, ethnic minorities, and disabled people. These groups will probably also be worst-affected by recessions following the pandemic. There are several reasons for this.

  • They’re more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 or to have severe symptoms if they get it.

  • Because of health inequalities, they were already more likely to have health problems.

  • They’re more likely to be unemployed and to be poor.

  • The automation of some jobs is more likely to affect them.

  • Covid may have damaged their education or stopped them from getting skills.

  • They face more barriers to travelling.

  • They are more likely to have mental health problems, and less likely to be

    physically active.

  • They’re more likely to suffer domestic abuse.

  • They’re more likely live in poor housing or to be homeless.

  • They find it harder to get information and to access the support they need.
  • The region’s population has grown a lot in the last ten years. It is likely to keep growing.
  • The birth rate has increased faster than it has nationally. This will put more pressure on education, employment and housing.

  • As people live longer, there will be more people aged over 65 and with disabilities. This will put more pressure on transport, healthcare and social services.

  • The growing numbers of younger and older people mean that there won’t be as many people who are the right age to work.

  • The population will probably get more diverse.

  • Social inequality is high. The problems include lots of people living in deprived areas, high unemployment and low qualification levels.

  • Residential segregation, where some minority ethnic live mainly in specific areas, is growing.

  • More jobs today need skilled workers. Lots of people don’t have the skills and qualifications they need.

  • Transport poverty is widespread. It is a bigger problem on the edges of the main urban areas. Without good transport links, it is harder for people in these areas to reach job and education opportunities.

  • More jobs are being lost to automation. This affects people with less education and in lower-paid jobs the most. It is also more likely to affect young people because many jobs that offer a first step into work are more likely to be automated.

  • It is more important than ever to have digital skills. As lots of businesses and service providers use online systems more, people who don’t have digital skills will struggle. People from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be in this position.

  • Covid-19 has already made inequalities worse. It will lead to periods of recession that will make them even worse.