Race Matters

How does your race affect your pay cheque?

There is a wealth of research showing a race-related pay gap in the UK, here news blogger Sandra O'Hare examines the evidence. 

Inequality in the UK has long been traceable by considering pay. The glass ceiling for female workers is a well-known and regularly protested discrepancy; the constant turbulence between the high earners and the working poor is regularly reported.

However, the unjust valuation of black and minority ethnic (BME) workers is only beginning to gain public awareness. The reason for the stark gap between white and non-white employees is embedded in every aspect of our system. From education to employment, BME citizens are at a disadvantage.

The government needs to answer for the many social inequalities that have allowed this issue to reach such extreme severity.

Civil rights for civil servants?

If it weren't for one persistent Lib Dem MP, information on the BME pay gap wouldn’t even exist. Greg Mulholland's many parliamentary questions instigated a Whitehall investigation into racial disparities in the civil service, which revealed some worrying statistics.

Perhaps the most poignant result was the number of departments which outright refused to share their data. There were seven in total, and they were not insubstantial institutions; the Cabinet office and 10 Downing Street were among those that vetoed providing information.

The results that were presented were no more inspiring. The Foreign Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport both revealed a 30 percent average difference between the wage of BME and non-BME people. The findings from Jeremy Hunt's Health Division also exposed an incredible £5.30 drop in the average wage per hour for BME employees.

While these results are a clear cause for concern, government-led departments are not the only ones guilty of financial inequality.

University challenge

Skeptics may claim that the pay gap is a reflection of the culture in BME groups, or that a lack of ambition or academic achievement is to blame. However, it takes minimal exploration to discover that the this is not the reality.

A report by the Trades Union Congress investigated the pay gap for minority workers with regards to achieved qualifications. It disclosed that black students who entered the workforce after GCSEs are paid 11 percent less than their white counterparts. For those with a degree, the gap increased to a shocking 23 percent.

It's hard to determine how this situation has occurred, however, a study by the University of Essex provided a probable explanation. It concluded that ethnic minority graduates were 5-15 percent less likely to be hired than their White British equivalents. Considering this, it isn’t surprising that BME workers aren't regularly employed in prominent positions, therefore contributing to a lower average pay overall.

Faces at the top

The UK faces a formidable ‘whiteout’ when it comes to those in powerful corporate positions. Currently, the ethnic spread of the FTSE 100 companies stands as a prominent example of existing prejudice in the workplace. This study was carried out by Sir John Parker and aimed at exploring diversity in executive positions. What he found was a complete lack thereof.

While non-white employees make up 14 percent of the British workforce, only 8 percent of FTSE 100 directors are from a minority ethnic background. However, perhaps a bigger cause for concern is that 53 of the investigated firms didn't have even one non-white board member.

It isn't just in the country's most profitable corporations that the top pay grade lacks diversity. Recent revelations from the BBC highlighted severe inconsistencies when their top-talent list was released in 2017. The lack of ethnic minority faces raised significant concerns.

The highest-earning non-white didn’t make the top 10, or even the top 20. Ranked in 36th place, Mishal Husain was the first BME employee mentioned. She earns a staggering £1.95m less than the list’s leader, TV and Radio presenter Chris Evans. 

While these organisations need to reassess their diversity policies, there may be another factor that comes into play. The challenges BME citizens face regarding pay start well before the moment they join the workforce.

Back to school

As research continues to unveil that White British students achieve worse A Level results than many BME students. Many similar studies reiterate that BME students do not achieve lower grades than other students, so the lack of diversity at the top cannot be put down to a shortage of motivation or ability.

Considering this, data published by UCAS paints an alarming picture. The statistics show that even if White British and BME students took the same subjects and received the same grades, universities would still favour the former. For those applying to Oxford, the difference in the chance of acceptance is a harrowing 50 percent. Just 1 percent of the universities intake identified as black 2015. This ongoing battle for ethnic minorities to receive a high-quality education is likely contributing to the lack of BME people in director positions in the workforce.

Gap within a gap

Within BME groups, there are some who feel the sting of this financial prejudice more than others. The gender pay gap is still existent for within ethnic minority groups, meaning that BME women are some of the lowest paid workers in the country. This discrepancy exists in every employment industry across the UK.

Minority women receive up to 26 percent less pay than White British men in the same positions. Breaking this down between various ethnicities helps to paint a clearer picture. While Black African women earn 24 percent less, for those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, this rises to 26.2 percent.

When considering the variations between women and men of the same ethnicity, the results also show little promise. Indian female workers face the largest hurdle as, on average, their salary will be 16.1 percent lower than Indian men’s pay.

While politicians and human rights groups have been extremely vocal about the gender pay gap, they are failing to note a key part of the issue. BME women face a much harder challenge than any other UK demographic, yet their struggle remains unaddressed. 

As the pay gap has multiple contributing factors and exists over several areas of society, it seems the only real solution will come with a change of legislation and/or government pressure. As a BME citizen, you may not consider these implications when you receive your pay cheque. However, this institutional racism needs highlighting if we hope to work towards an equal and diverse future in Britain.


Sandra O'Hare is an alternative news blogger for The Right Side Of Truth, dedicated to broadcasting the big issues that mainstream media won’t address. She believes that the fight for equality is far from over, and it’s our duty to spread the word. If she’s not writing, she is a passionate worldwide traveller.
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