Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the UK face a significant jobs gap and pay “penalty” despite an increase in the number obtaining degrees, a study has shown.
The proportion of working-age people with degrees had increased across all ethnic groups in recent years, from 12% in 1996-99 to 30% in 2014-17, a leading thinktank found. The proportion of working-age Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people with degrees has more than trebled since the end of the 1990s to their current levels of 50%, 30% and 25% respectively.
But the Resolution Foundation said there was a long way to go before progress on educational attainment fully fed through to the labour market, with graduates of all BAME groups facing a jobs gap compared with white people with degrees.
The analysis showed that despite this, Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates are about 12% less likely to be in work than white British graduates, and that Indian and Black Caribbean graduates have a jobs gap of about 5%. Black African and Bangladeshi graduates are twice as likely to work in low-paying occupations as Indian, white and Chinese graduates.
Kathleen Henehan, a policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The rising share of people going to university is a well-known British success story of recent decades. The progress made by black and ethnic minority groups is astounding, with the share of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates trebling in less than 20 years.
“But despite this success, graduates from a black and ethnic minority background still face significant employment and pay penalties in the workforce. These labour market disadvantages are a big living standards concern and mean we risk failing to make the most of the investment made in their education.”
Amatey Doku, of the National Union of Students, said one of the reasons for the disparity was that Russell Group and Oxbridge universities were not doing enough.
He told Sky News that the rise in the number of BAME degrees was mostly happening at post-1992 universities, which were often ex-polytechnics.
“They are obviously giving graduates the skills and the good degrees that are required by the jobs market and society as a whole but they aren’t seen in the same regard or esteem as the more research-intensive universities, like those in the Russell Group and Oxbridge,” Doku said. “And what that means, and as the report has shown, is that you do get this disparity.
“Universities are meant to be this great leveller and are simply not doing the job required.”
The study was published before an audit of race disparity across public service outcomes, which is due to be released on 10 September. The data will show how outcomes differ for those from BAME groups in health, education and employment services, and within the criminal justice system.
Launching the audit in August last year, Theresa May said: “This audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before. It is only by doing so we can make this country work for everyone, not just a privileged few.”
Henehan and her colleague Helena Rose welcomed the audit in a blogpost on the thinktank’s website: “In order to tackle [the disparities] we need a better understanding of where and how they exist – before of course turning to the really important bit: action to actually do something about them.”
The study and the audit comes after the Guardian revealed recently that only 3% of Britain’s most powerful and influential people are from BAME groups, despite almost 13% of the UK population being of a minority background.
From a list of just over 1,000 of the UK’s top political, financial, judicial, cultural and security figures, which was drawn up in partnership with Operation Black Vote, only 36 (3.4%) were from ethnic minorities. Just seven (0.7%) were BAME women. In some sectors – the police, military, supreme court and security services as well as top consultancies and law firms – there were no non-white supremos at all.
At the time the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – one of the 36 – said: “We need to ensure that every young person has a role model they can look up to. It’s so important to promote the successful figures from Britain’s BAME communities. We need to create a sense of optimism, aspiration and hope.”