Ethnic minorities’ employment prospects lag behind white majority because of ‘persistent racism’

The employment prospects of some ethnic minorities have improved since the 1970s but still lag behind the white majority because of “persistent racism”, a major new study says.

Three researchers found that, despite progress, most ethnic minority groups studied are still more likely to be in manual work or unemployed or sick than their white counterparts.

Dr Saffron Karlsen, of the University of Bristol, Professor James Nazroo, University of Manchester, and Dr Neil Smith, National Centre for Social Research, analysed national census data on more than 70,000 people in England and Wales.

An article to be published shortly in the journal Sociology, run by the British Sociological Association, says that the most disadvantaged groups were men and women of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity, who were 1.5 and 1.3 times more likely to be in manual work than their white counterparts in 2011.

In 2011, women of Bangladeshi, black Caribbean, black African and Pakistani ethnicity were between 1.6 and 5.3 times more likely to be unemployed or off sick than white women. For men the figures were between 1.8 and 2.

Among men the ethnic groups with a relatively strong position were men of Chinese and Indian ethnicity, who were more likely to work in manual occupations than white men in 1971, but less likely in 2011. Also, women of Chinese ethnicity were less likely to be in manual work than white women in 2011, as they were in 1971.

Men and women of Irish ethnicity had about the same likelihood of being in a manual occupation in 2011 as non-Irish ethnicity white men and women.

In most cases where the rate of manual labour or of unemployment or sickness was higher among ethnic minorities in 2011 than among white people, the difference was less dramatic than it was in 1971.

“The evidence for the socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by most, although not all, people with ethnic minority backgrounds in England and Wales compared with the ethnic majority is indisputable,” says Dr Karlsen.

“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 researchers also found that:

  • 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, a figure that rose to six groups in the 2011 census.
  • Women in six of the seven ethnic minority groups had a rate of unemployment or sickness higher than white women in the 1971 census, a figure that stayed the same in the 2011 census.
  • In the 1971 census 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 census.
  • In 1971 women in six of the seven ethnic minority groups were more likely to be in a manual job than white women, a figure that fell to four groups in the 2011 census.
  • The seven ethnic minority groups were: Bangladeshi, black African, black Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Irish and Pakistani. In the text above, ‘white’ refers to people who gave their ethnicity as white British (and not Irish, who are classed as one of the ethnic minorities). The researchers used ONS Longitudinal Study data.

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392 
tony.trueman@britsoc.org.uk

 

 

Notes:

 

  1. 1. The researchers used data from ONS Longitudinal Study, which links data from the national censuses with data on life events, such as unemployment, with a 1% sample of the population of England and Wales. The dataset for occupations in 1971 comprised 74,545 people and for 2011, 134,239 people, aged between 16 and 75; for unemployment/sickness the datasets were 76,816 in 1971 and 113,612 in 2011. The researchers combined the employment categories of ‘professional’, ‘managerial and technical’ and ‘skilled non-manual’ into an overall ‘non-manual’ category, and those in ‘skilled manual’, ‘partly skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ into an overall ‘manual’ group. They also grouped those who were unemployed and off from work because of sickness into one category. At the time of the 1971 census, 62% of white British men and 39% of women were in a manual occupation, and the figures for 2011 were 49% for both men and women. In 1971, 3.8% of white British men were unemployed or sick and 4.3% of women – by 2011 the figures were 11.2% and 10.4% respectively.

 

  1. 2. The paper contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.

 

  1. 3. The article is entitled ‘Ethnic, religious and gender differences in intragenerational economic mobility in England Wales’, and will be published shortly online in Sociology, one of the journals run by the British Sociological Association and SAGE.

 

  1. 4. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235 britsoc.co.uk

 

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392 
tony.trueman@britsoc.org.uk

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