Racial inequality in UK: The appalling reality of how a Briton's ethnicity affects their chances of a good life

May Bulman
The report has prompted campaigners to urge ministers to lead the way in tackling the inequalities, but also to acknowledge that society as a whole must change to ensure a level playing field for all ethnic groups: Zakariya Cochrane

Deep-seated racial inequality in the UK has been laid bare in a new report exposing "entrenched" disparities between different ethnic communities.

Significant differences in the life outcomes of British ethnic minority and white people revealed in the Government’s racial disparity audit have prompted Theresa May to urge institutions to help ensure race is never a barrier.

A considerably higher unemployment rate among black, Asian and minority ethnic people than white British adults and lower home ownership among Bangladeshis and black people are among the findings to come out of the report.

British white groups also fall behind in some instances, with white British pupils on school meals less likely to reach the expected standard at Key Stage 2 than any other ethnic group and white teenagers more likely to be smokers than black teenagers.

The audit has been published on a new Ethnicity Facts and Figures website, breaking down how people of different races are treated in areas including health, education, employment and the criminal justice system.

Among the findings are:

  • Ethnic minorities are under-represented at senior levels across the public sector
  • Black Caribbean pupils were permanently excluded at three times the rate (0.29 per cent) of white British pupils (0.1 per cent)
  • The unemployment rate for black, Asian and minority ethnic people (8 per cent) is nearly double that of white British adults (4.6 per cent), with a larger gap in the North (13.6 per cent) than the South (9 per cent)
  • White people, Indians and Pakistanis are more likely to own their own home than Bangladeshis and black people, and there are disparities in home ownership even after taking account of age, geography, income and socio-economic group
  • White teenagers are four times more likely to be smokers than black teenagers
  • Chinese and Asian secondary school pupils perform better than white and black children, particularly those eligible for free school meals, although Pakistani pupils consistently fall behind, and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children do significantly worse
  • Among children aged between seven and 11 (Key Stage 2), 71 per cent of Chinese children met the expected standard for reading, writing and maths, compared with 54 per cent of white British pupils and 13% of white Gypsy and Roma pupils
  • Less than a third (32 per cent) of white British pupils on free school meals reached the expected standard at Key Stage 2 - worse than any other ethnic group
  • A high percentage of people of all ethnicities feel they “belong to Britain”, with little variation between groups (white 85 per cent, Asian 84 per cent, black 81 per cent)
  • Across primary, special and secondary school education, Irish heritage Traveller children and Gypsy/Roma pupils had the highest rate of permanent exclusions - 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively

The report has prompted campaigners to urge ministers to lead the way in tackling the inequalities, but also to acknowledge that society as a whole must change to ensure a level playing field for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons, as well as white people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission meanwhile called for a “comprehensive and coherent race equality strategy” from the Government.

Its chairman David Isaac said: “The findings of the race audit do not come as a shock to us. The Prime Minister should be applauded for laying out this information for all to see and we now need to use to the data to set the foundations for real change.

“Only by taking focused action to tackle race inequality can Britain become a fair country in which individuals can reach their potential and our communities can live and work together to create a strong economy and a cohesive society.

"The Government must tackle the significant disparities confirmed by the audit in order to address the entrenched inequality that is so prevalent in our society."

Race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, whose latest report found that the poorest black and Asian households will experience the biggest drop in average living standards of any group in society, called for ”more social mixing“ with ”neighbours talking to other neighbours“ to tackle fear and prejudice.

Director Omar Khan said: ”No one can be in any doubt that racial inequalities is a major issue that requires real effort to fix, not just from government but also action by employers, schools, and individuals.

“We have had decades of reports into the problem - many from the Runnymede Trust. The time for talking is now over, we must now move to debating solutions.”

Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, said: “Yes, some findings make uncomfortable reading, but unless these things are laid bare we can't begin to resolve them.

"Over many years the Prime Minister has shown a real desire to grapple with the scourge of racism including confronting high levels of BAME Stop and Search, BAME deaths in police custody and now this."

To launch the new website, thought to be the first official resource of its kind in the world, Mrs May hosted a discussion around the Cabinet table involving “key stakeholders”.

She told them the audit will become an “essential resource in the battle to defeat ethnic injustice”.

“People who have lived with discrimination don't need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge,” she said.

“But this audit means that for society as a whole - for government, for our public services - there is nowhere to hide. These issues are now out in the open. And the message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed.

“Britain has come a long way in my lifetime in spreading equality and opportunity. But the data we are publishing will provide the definitive evidence of how far we must still go in order to truly build a country that works for everyone.”

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