Credit: Howard Lake/Flickr

Education is not enough to close the ethnicity pay gap

Black graduates earn a whopping 23% less than their white counterparts.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2016

The pay gap between black and white workers is damning if not surprising. But what’s especially concerning are statistics published by the Trades Union Congress today that suggest education is failing to close the void.

Black graduates typically earn £14.33 per hour, 22% more than average black workers as a whole, but an alarming 23% less than white graduates. That’s almost twice the size of the 12.8% gap between white and black workers across the board. 

‘This suggests that education alone will do little to address racial inequalities, and the need for interventions that directly challenge racial inequalities in the workplace,’ points out Dr Omar Khan, director of race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.

The trust's own research found these gaps extend to Russell Group grads with similar qualifications. That would suggest the problem is bigger than the admissions processes of elite universities, which the prime minister David Cameron railed against yesterday.

‘If you’re a young black man, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university,’ the PM wrote in the Sunday Times, citing a list of other inequalities, including the lack of black generals in the army and on the boards of big businesses. ‘These examples I mention should shame our country and jolt us into action.’

There’s certainly a problem at the top. Almost two thirds of FTSE 100 firms have all-white boards and just four of its chief execs are members of an ethnic minority (compared to around 12% of the population as a whole).

This has long been written off by some as an early years problem – the idea that a greater proportion of minority ethnic people are held back at the start of their life, miss out on educational opportunities and as a consequence are underrepresented among the upper echelons of society.

While there’s undoubtedly work to be done on improving the education afforded to young people of all ethnicities, these statistics suggest there is a greater problem at work here. If we’re to see a more equal society then employers must do all they can to minimise the biases, however unconscious, that stop ethnic minorities moving up through their organisations.

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