Mixed picture on gender pay gap for different ethnic groups

Textile Workers, Shift Work, Women Working, Factory Work

group of textile workers in production area

Some ethnic groups have seen big progress in the gender pay gap in the last 25 years while for others the gap has remained virtually static, according to analysis of the gender pay gap by ethnicity.

The Fawcett Society report, Gender Pay Gap by Ethnicity in Britain, shows how different ethnic groups have fared in terms of the gender pay gap since the 1990s. It shows Black Caribbean women in full-time work have overtaken Black Caribbean men so that they now have a reverse pay gap of -8.8%. However, Black African women have closed the gap in full-time earnings with White British men by less than 2% since the 1990s.  The full-time pay gap was 21.4% in the 1990s and is 19.6% today. When part-time workers are included this figure rises to 24%.

The research also shows that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience the largest aggregate (i.e. including full-time and part-time workers) gender pay gap at 26.2%. This compares to 19% for White British women, 14% for Black Caribbean women and 16% for ‘White Other’. Indian women experience the biggest pay gap with men in their ethnic group at 16.1%.

Women who identify as ‘White Other’ are the only group who have seen their pay gap widen since the 1990s from 3.5% to 14% today. However, the Society says this is largely because the composition of this group has changed over time and is today largely comprised of Central and Eastern European migrant women, many of whom are in low paid work.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “This analysis reveals a complex picture of gender pay gap inequality. Black African women have been largely left behind, and in terms of closing the pay gap, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are today only where White British women were in the 1990s.

“For these groups this is a story of low labour market participation and low pay when they are in work together with high levels of unpaid caring work.”

The report also reveals some women experiencing real progress:

• Black Caribbean women fare better than White British women when compared with White British men (a 5.5% vs 13.9% pay gap). They are more likely to be in the labour market (63% compared to 54% of White British women), are older and so have more experience of the workplace and are also more likely to be working full time. Black Caribbean mothers tend to return to work while their children are very young, says the report. However, at 10% their unemployment rate is still twice that of White British women at 5%. Black Caribbean men experience the highest unemployment rate of 16%, are under-represented in better paid professions or senior positions and over-represented in routine occupations.

• Chinese women have reversed their pay gap since the 1990s. Those in full-time work now earn more per hour than White British men (a reverse gap of -5.6%), but the gap between Chinese men and women has widened from 4.6% in 2000s, to 11.6% in 2010s, says the report.

• Indian women have seen the gender pay gap with White British Men narrow from 26% in the 1990s to 6.3% in 2010s for those working full time and reducing by more than half over that period when including part-time workers (from 27% to 12%). However, the report notes that those not in work are still significantly more likely than White British women to be doing unpaid caring work.

• White Irish women have seen the most progress since the 1990s, overtaking White Irish men and White British men and now have a -17.5% full-time pay gap. But this is largely due to generational factors as they are more likely to be older, working full-time or in senior or managerial roles, says the report.

Smethers adds: “For women in some ethnic groups a combination of higher education, concentration in better paid professions and more women working full time has seen their gender pay gap narrow or even reverse when compared with White British men. However, when compared with men of their own ethnicity the pay gap has either widened over time (Chinese women) or narrowed at a much slower rate (Indian women), indicating that they are still experiencing gender inequality.

“The exception to this is Black Caribbean men who are faring considerably worse in the labour market both in terms of pay and participation than Black Caribbean women. However, Black Caribbean women still experience discrimination.

“We have to address pay inequality for all, and look behind the headline figures to get a true picture of what is going on. We also have to understand and address the combined impact of race and gender inequality. As a minimum the ONS should routinely collect and publish this data.”

The report’s recommendations include a call for the ONS to calculate and release gender pay gap figures by ethnicity on a regular basis, a call for pay to be increased for the lowest paid, action to address the unequal impact of caring roles, a call to tackle multiple discrimination and more action to ensure progression for a diversity of women.

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