Highly-Educated Minorities in Britain Are Losing Out at Work

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Second-generation ethnic minorities in Britain have fared much better in education than their white majority counterparts despite having much less advantaged backgrounds, yet are less likely to be employed, new research shows.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the U.K.-born children of immigrant parents had achieved “great success” in education -- in sharp contrast to most ethnic minorities in other European countries -- but had not experienced commensurate gains in the workplace.

“We should celebrate their remarkable success in education, but ask hard questions about why this does not translate into equal success in the world of work,” said Lucinda Platt, professor at the London School of Economics and co-author of the report which used four decades of U.K. census data to track outcomes across generations.

“Attempts to oversimplify by putting poorer labor market performance down solely to less advantaged backgrounds on the one hand, or discrimination on the other, fail to recognize that both are relevant,” she said.

The report, part of the Deaton Review of Inequalities, was published days after the U.K.’s largest business group, the Confederation of British Industry, co-signed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for mandatory reporting on ethnic pay gaps, going beyond the recommendations made in April by the government’s commission on race and ethnic disparities in the U.K. The data would enable employers to “identify, consider and address” barriers faced by ethnic minorities in the workplace.

Second-generation Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean men and women are all more likely to be highly educated than their white majority counterparts, the IFS report found. They nonetheless face overall lower levels of employment; and while they have about the same chance of attaining professional or managerial jobs, they have not reaped the rewards their qualifications would usually be expected to produce.

The results showed a “varied and complex” picture that includes differences between and within minority groups, the researchers said. Those findings should invite “further reflection on the processes that suppress social mobility even in the face of educational mobility and why these differ for men and women of the same ethnicity,” said Platt.

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