Job prospects for ethnic minorities continue to lag behind opportunities for white people due to “persistent racism” at a “societal level,” claims a major new study.
Most ethnic minorities experience “indisputable” socio-economic disadvantage in employment opportunities, according to research involving more than 70,000 people in England and Wales.
The study, due to be published by the British Sociological Association, compared the latest census data to the equivalent figures from in 1971.
Four decades on, most ethnic minority groups were still more likely either to be in manual work, unemployed or off sick than their white counterparts.
Study researcher Dr Saffron Karlsen, of Bristol University, said: “The evidence for the socio-economic disadvantage experienced by most, although not all, people with ethnic minority backgrounds in England and Wales compared with the ethnic majority is indisputable.”
Seven ethnic minority
The team analysed employment data for seven ethnic minority groups including Bangladeshi, black African, black Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Irish and Pakistani, and compared the results to the reality for the white majority. They used Office for National Statistics data from the latest census in 2011.
The most disadvantaged groups were men and women of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity, who in 2011, were 50 and 30 per cent more likely to be in manual work than their white counterparts respectively.
Women of Bangladeshi, black Caribbean, black African and Pakistani ethnicity were between 1.6 and more than five times more likely to be unemployed or off sick than white women. Men of the same ethnicities were around two times more likely in the same measure.
Despite the persistent gaps, there were some signs that prospects for ethnic minorities are improving.
Chinese and Indian ethnicity men are now less likely to be manual workers in 2011 than white men, which is a reversal compared to 1971. The scenario was the same for women of Chinese ethnicity.
In addition, even though the void between the white majority and ethnic minorities still exists, it has narrowed compared to 1971.
In the 1971, men in six of the seven ethnic minority groups were more likely to be in a manual job than white men, a figure that fell to four groups in the 2011.
For women six of the seven ethnic minority groups were more likely to be in a manual job than white women almost half a century ago, a figure that fell to four groups in the 2011.
For Irish-heritage groups, both men and women are just as likely to be manual workers than their white majority peers.
But for ethnic minorities, rates of unemployment or sickness remained bleak. In the 1971 census, men in five of the seven ethnic minority groups studied had a rate of unemployment or sickness higher than that of white men. That figure rose to six groups in 2011.
The equivalent was true for women in six of the seven ethnic minority groups in 1971, and those figures did not budge in the latest census.
Dr Karlsen, a sociologist, added: “These findings would appear in keeping with work exposing the ethnic penalty which continues to affect the access of minority groups to employment… and the ways in which persistent racism limits access to positive socioeconomic outcomes including social mobility.
“There is sufficient consistency to suggest that this is a problem produced and perpetuated at the societal level.
“Addressing these inequalities will not be resolved by a focus on particular individuals or cultures and their perceived limitations, rather the focus should be racism, discrimination and their consequences.”
The study is due to be published in the journal Sociology.