Explain or Change: Government Launches Ethnicity Facts and Figures Website to Highlight Ethnicity Gap

Summary

On 10 October 2017 the government launched its Ethnicity Facts and Figures website. This brings together a large number of existing datasets from across government departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions in order to provide “an essential resource in the battle to defeat ethnic injustice”. The hope is that giving prominence to the statistics will encourage organisations will take positive steps to tackle discrimination across areas such as criminal justice, housing and employment.

Audit Results

The audit identifies several disparities along ethnic lines in relation to employment, including the following:

  • employment rates are higher for white workers than minority ethnic workers across the country by around 10%;
  • types of occupation vary between different ethnic groups, with a larger percentage of black/black British workers (16%) in the lowest skilled occupations compared to white workers (11%);
  • pay also varies across ethnic group, with Indian employees earning the highest average hourly pay at £15.81; and,
  • self-employment has increased among all ethnic groups since 2004, with Pakistani/Bangladeshi workers most likely to be self-employed.

The Prime Minister is challenging organisations, including government departments, to “explain or change” the statistics. For example, the Department for Work and Pensions have said they will take action to tackle disparities in employment in 20 “hotspots”, including mentoring schemes to help those from minority ethnic groups get into work, and traineeships for 16-24 year olds.

Comment

Statistics can be used to support a range of conclusions, and employers may be disappointed at the apparent lack of focus on ongoing trends by the government. For example, Pakistani/Bangladeshi workers have the lowest rates of employment (54%) compared to white British workers (75%) which could suggest that employers are perpetuating “ethnic injustice”.

However, Pakistani/Bangladeshi workers actually saw the biggest rise in employment since 2004, increasing 10% over this period compared to the 1% increase in employment rates of white British workers, which could equally suggest that any discrimination in the workplace may actually be decreasing for this group.

There has also been criticism by some that the website will be used to promote a “grievance culture” which in the context of employment could lead to an increase in numbers of race discrimination complaints and tribunal cases. Employers should therefore be mindful of possible increased scrutiny and take steps to ensure recruitment and management procedures are compliant with equality and anti-discrimination legislation, promote equality and diversity in the workplace, and consider ways in which “unconscious bias” may also be addressed.

For further information, please contact your usual contact in the Employment and Pensions Team.

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