Poverty twice as likely for minority ethnic groups: education fails to close the gap

30 April 2007

The poverty rate for Britain’s minority ethnic groups stands at 40%, double the 20% found amongst white British people, according to new research published today (30 April) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Minority ethnic groups are also being overlooked for jobs and are being paid lower wages, despite improvements in education and qualifications.

The research highlights the differences between minority ethnic groups with 65% of Bangladeshis living in poverty compared to 55% of Pakistanis, 45% of Black Africans and 30% of Indians and Black Caribbeans. Over half of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black African children in the UK are growing up in poverty with a staggering 70% of Bangladeshi children growing up poor.

The research shows that people from minority ethnic groups who have higher educational achievements do not receive the same rewards as those from white British backgrounds with similar qualifications. A wide range of factors are shown to affect different groups and the research highlights how the Government needs to consider and implement more targeted policies.

JRF Director Julia Unwin said: “Although the past decade has seen some improvements, there are still some very serious problems which remain unsolved. This research shows how policies need to address the different situation of each group and be followed through on a practical level. We need an urgent rethink from Government and employers so that minority ethnic groups do not miss out on opportunities in the workplace and higher educational attainment is properly recognised.”

The reports show that:

  • only 20% of Bangladeshis, 30% of Pakistanis and 40% of Black Africans of working age are in full time work (compared to over 50% of white British people of working age);
  • even with a degree, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are less likely to be employed than someone white with the same qualifications;
  • despite a rapid growth in Pakistani and Bangladeshi women going to university, they suffer high unemployment and are much less likely than Indian or white British women to be in professional or managerial jobs;
  • the problem is not confined to first generation immigrants: British born people from minority ethnic backgrounds, especially Indian, Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups are less likely to get jobs than their white equivalents;
  • while poverty levels among white British people are the same whether they live in London or elsewhere, rates among minority ethnic groups are far worse for those living in London.

Part of a major new programme of JRF research looking into the links between poverty and ethnicity, these first five reports look at education, employment and how ill health affects work opportunities and access to ‘sickness’ benefits. Providing an overview of the situations for different minority ethnic groups, the research also suggests possible solutions to address some of the problems.

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