11 Jul 2019

The UK's ethnic pay gap

From Nights, 9:40 pm on 11 July 2019

A report by the British Office of National Statistics shows significant pay gaps between ethnic groups in the country.

The statistics show Bangladeshi workers earn 20.1 percent less than white British workers. Minority ethnic groups in London earn on average 21.7 percent less than white employees.

“I think it shocked quite a few people,” says Sharan Dhaliwal, editor in chief of Burnt Roti Magazine, a London-based publication that aims to give a platform to young creatives in the UK with Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds.

 “Now, the most interesting thing with the report is that a lot of the gaps were generational. A lot of the Bangladeshi gaps were Bangladeshi men from their 40s onwards whereas younger ethnic people were closing the gap slightly,” Dhaliwal says.

Sharan Dhaliwal is the editor in chief of Burnt Roti Magazine.

Sharan Dhaliwal is the editor in chief of Burnt Roti Magazine. Photo: Burnt Roti

She says the first big wave of migration to the UK from was during the Partition of India in 1947, when British colonial rulers divided what was British India into two independent nations; India and Pakistan.

“It was during a lot of the genocides that happened, so people were escaping… and there was a lot of immigration during that time.”

In the early 1970s, during the Bangladesh liberation war with what was then east Pakistan, a large number of Bangladeshi people also migrated to the UK.

New immigrants took any job they could, taking any pay they could get, often in factories says Dhaliwal.

“It’s easier now for younger people to come in and ask for a better pay, but there’s still a gap, there’s still a massive gap.

"I found it really interesting [that] it's generational because I think we never think of that, we never think when people immigrate over, the way that they have to just grab a job, any job that they can grab, and there’s going to be a massive pay gap there.”

It's now time to close that gap, she says.

In terms of a gender pay gap, the largest exists between Indian workers.

 “It was very much a thing that when people came over the men would work, and the women would look after the children, so they wouldn’t work.”

The pay gap didn’t really consider the fact that women didn’t work and when they did it was part time or freelance, she says.

“It was rarely a full-time job where you can actually build in statistics for women in that generation.”

There’s now a big uprising of young women from ethnic minority backgrounds working to make changes in society.

“Whether it’s political or in the creative world, there’s a lot of independent things being created by young women. There’s so many people starting new businesses and that’s not something that really happened before.”

These are people who are able to hire employees, she says.

“Yes, we still need to match the gap in the pay and there’s a lot of work to be done there and a lot of the work needs to be done from higher up in these industries because that’s not being done.

"A lot of ethnic people are just starting their own thing, are just saying we’ll do it ourselves, let’s start our own business and then we can match our own pay and we can pay people the way we want to.

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