Growing Up in the UK
Expat Life

Getting to Know the UK: Immigration and Family Roles

Welcome to the second installment of my life in the UK series where I’m learning everything about this grand nation that I live in. This week I’m learning all about the evolving melting pot and changes in society particularly as it relates to women and children.  There were lots of dates and statistics that I didn’t know but lots of other stuff that frankly anyone living in a modern western society would be familiar with.

Making a Melting Pot

After WWII, there were vast shortages of labor required for the rebuilding effort.  As a result the government encouraged migration to Britain from many areas across the globe.  Immigration policy was fairly open until the 1960s and 70s when the government put restrictions in place.  Immigrants have primarily come to Britain from:

UK Immigration Sources

Girl Power

Women account for 51% of the population and 45% of the workforce in the UK.  All women over 21 have had the right to vote since 1928.  Acts of Parliament in the 1970s gave women equal pay rights and the right to non discrimination in the workplace.  The 1968 strike by sewing machinists at Ford Motor Company spurred much of this legislation.  Watch the excellent movie Made in Dagenham for a dramatization of the story.  This should serve to remind women lucky enough to live in countries where they have the right to vote that women before them fought hard for the rights and freedoms we have today.  Don’t ever take their efforts for granted.

And, as a true testament to the changing views toward women in Britain, the 16 Commonwealth countries recently agreed to change the laws about succession to the throne.  Now, sons and daughters will have equal right to the throne.  So if William and Kate’s first-born is a girl she’ll be ahead of any younger brothers in line for the throne.

Finally, despite the fact that 75% of women with school age children do paid work, women in the UK still have primary responsibility for childcare and housework. I did not need to read a study guide to know this.

Children and Young People

People under the age of 19 represent 25% of the population or 15 million.  The most startling thing I’ve learned in my studies this week is that “young people have different identities, interests, and fashions to older people.”  Really?  You mean my grandparents aren’t also big fans of Jay-Z?  I also found it interesting to learn that when children grow up sometimes they even leave their parent’s homes to live on their own as adults.  Thank goodness.  Kids watch too much TV, they don’t play outside enough, and they live in a variety of family situations (dual parent, single parent, step parents, etc.).  Young people are eligible to vote age 18 but in the 2001 general election only 1 in 5 first time voters actually took advantage of this.  Maybe young people aren’t that interested in politics?  While this is intended to describe what it’s like growing up in the UK, this could be anywhere.


As a parent I’ve had to wrap my head around the different terminology etc. they use for schools in the UK as I’ve prepared for enrolling my son in school. It’s also been helpful just to have some frame of reference as I socialize with friends and we recount stories from our childhood.  My “high school” years don’t really match up with specific stages here but instead cross the boundaries of secondary school and A levels.  The one thing I am finding out that I love about English schools is a school uniform.  On the days my son attends pre-school it’s a relief not to have to worry about his fashion choices in the morning.  It’s just one less thing to worry about.  In summary:

UK Education

Join me next week as I learn more about the population, its regions, religion, and customs.

This is part of my ongoing series about understanding life in the UK, an exercise that’s helping me study for my Life in the UK test.  Plus, I thought it would be interesting to share some facts and observations about this country I’m living in before it takes the world stage next month when the Olympics come to town.

Other Articles in the Series:

* Source: Life in the United Kingdom:  A Journey To Citizenship 2nd Edition by the Home Office

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  • Reply HONEY June 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    WOW….you seem to be back in school after all those levels you “aced” in the homeland…… are a “forever student”…….you come by it honestly…it is in your genes…your precious grandfather, George, was reading and learning throughout his 99…yes ! ninety-nine years…what a guy…and, oh ! how he loved you……I like to think he smiles at James with great PRIDE !!!!! I f George were still living, he would be at this computer soaking up all that you are learning and looking forward to the next installment…..

  • Reply Lynn June 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Hiya! I’ve found you through Senses… I love the idea of this series! My husband, toddler and I are all starting our 2nd of 3 years in England, and it’s very cool to see the Facts gathered in one place. The immigration stats I find particularly interesting. Keep it up!

    • Reply katherine June 15, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      Lynn – thanks. Hope you’re enjoying your time here!

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