Skip to content

Race and ethnicity

Diversity and disadvantage

The UK is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse: over 20 per cent of the population reports as being from a minority ethnic group. While many British ethnic minorities are immigrants, a substantial share – over 40% of Asian and Black ethnic groups – are born in the UK. This is also increasingly the case for their parents and grandparents as well.

The experience of the UK’s ethnic minorities varies. While those from all minority groups now attend university at higher rates than the White British majority population, there remains substantial variation between groups in their academic attainment. Those of Indian and Chinese ethnicity outperform their White majority counterparts at particularly high rates.

Employment and pay inequalities across ethnic and gender groups

Tests of applications sent to employers show that there continues to be systematic racial discrimination within the labour market across ethnicities. Labour market disadvantage in terms of unemployment, occupational attainment and pay varies substantially. Rates of unemployment faced by Black groups are particularly high at over double those for the White majority, and the gaps are even larger among youth. There are also differences by sex: while women tend to have slightly lower unemployment rates than men, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women have unemployment rates twice those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and over three times those of White majority women.

Addressing ethnic inequalities

In many European countries, concern with ethnic disadvantage has had a strong focus on educational attainment and the factors that might contribute to that. In the UK, since ethnic minorities are (now) performing at such high levels educationally, the question instead becomes: how and why such educational attainment does not translate into equivalent labour market success? Why does it do so so less for some minorities than for others?

Further investigation of what happens in families to promote educational success and the extent to which that is transferable to other contexts can provide one starting point. In addition, as well as identifying different patterns of employment discrimination and what is driving them, it is also relevant to pay attention to occupational choices and outcomes. Which jobs do different ethnic groups cluster in? How do they end up in them? What are patterns of pay and career progression within and between different jobs? How do family responsibilities affect work and pay of those from different groups? Greater attention to these issues can help to provide the basis for informing policies to more effectively address ethnic inequalities.

Contributors