UK has a stubborn, unexplained ethnicity pay gap, study shows

The differences in pay persist despite other measures of inequality in education and employment narrowing in recent years. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Almost all ethnic minorities in the UK face a stubborn wage gap that can’t be explained by factors such as occupation and education, new research shows. 

Some groups face gaping pay disparities, with Bangladeshi men earning 42 per cent less and Pakistani men earning 22 per cent less than their White peers, according to a report released on Monday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. 

All ethnic minority groups earn less than expected when backgrounds, education and occupations were taken into account, the report said. Younger Britons from Black and South Asian backgrounds are more likely to go to university than their White counterparts.

The researchers underlined some of the more persistent disparities between ethnicities just as new census data is expected to reveal further growth in the UK’s ethnic minority population later this month. That population has boomed in recent years, increasing by 166 per cent between 1991 and 2011 in England and Wales – the White population has grown by less than 2 per cent in comparison. 

“Understanding ethnic inequalities in the UK is a moral, political and economic priority,” said Ms Heidi Safia Mirza, one of the authors of the report. “Evidence of discrimination in the labour market is clear, and wealth inequalities are likely to prove especially hard to shift.”

The differences in pay persist despite other measures of inequality in education and employment narrowing in recent years. Black African, Bangladeshi and Pakistani school children have largely closed the gap or overtaken their White classmates in English and Maths GCSE exam results since 2004. 

In the years after George Floyd’s murder in 2020 and the ensuing reckoning on racial inequality, researchers are increasingly finding evidence of racial prejudice affecting ethnic minority employees.

Over a fifth of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds say they have faced discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity alone, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation. Black professionals in particular are more likely to experience micro-aggressions in the workplace, a study by Coqual showed, contributing to almost half planning to quit their jobs in the near future. 

The report underlined the importance of distinguishing between ethnic groups, with research showing greater differences among ethnic minorities than between white people and ethnic minorities.  

The research “shows not just the extent of differences between ethnic minority groups and the White majority, but also how different has been the experience of different ethnic groups”, said Dr Imran Rasul, an economist at University College London. BLOOMBERG

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