Gender pay gap in Britain is “shaped by racial inequality”

Analysis of the gender pay gap by ethnicity reveals real inequalities, according to a report published today. While some minority ethnic groups are making great strides, pay for others lags far behind, says the Gender Pay Gap by Ethnicity in Britain report by the Fawcett Society.

Its calculations are based on the gender pay gap (the gap in average hourly earnings between women and men) within ethnic groups, as well as the gap between minority ethnic women and White British men.

Fawcett Society research claims that the gender pay gap in Britain is shaped by racial inequality. Women from almost every minority ethnic group experience a pay gap with White British men, it says. That full-time pay gap can range from a reversed gender pay gap of -5.6% for Chinese women in Great Britain to 19.6% for Black African women.

In fact, Black African women have seen virtually no progress since the 1990s in closing the gender pay gap with White British men says the report. And as well as this gender pay gap with White British men, pay by gender within the same ethnic group can also vary widely.

Women of most ethnic minority groups experience a gender pay gap when compared with men of the same ethnicity, according to the analysis. However, it is Indian women who experience the widest full-time gender pay gap of this type with Indian men of 16.1%.

The role played by low pay is also significant says the report. Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, for example experience some of the lowest pay so their gender pay gap with White British men is very large at 26.2%. But the gap between Pakistani and Bangladeshi women and men is just 5.5%, indicating that Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are trapped in low paid work as well.

The exception is Black Caribbean women’s reversed gender pay gap with Black Caribbean men of -8.8%, says the report.

“The analysis reveals a complex picture of gender pay gap inequality,” says Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society: “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, she explains.

The pay gap is narrowing – because of high education and more women working full time –but at very different rates, says the report. It cites the example of how 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.

White Irish women have, however, overtaken White Irish men and White British men and now have a sizeable -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.

Sam Smethers says: “We have to address pay inequality for all. We also have to understand and address the combined impact of race and gender inequality.”

The report calls for five key actions:

Collect the data – the gender pay gap by ethnicity is not routinely measured. The ONS should calculate and release these figures on a regular basis alongside the regular ASHE pay gap data.

Increase pay for the lowest paid – many of those women experiencing the largest ethic gender pay gaps are working in some of the lowest paid jobs. The National Living Wage should be set at the Real Living Wage which in turn should replace the National Minimum Wage as the legal minimum rate of pay in the UK.

Address the unequal impact of caring roles – this is a significant contributing factor explaining the gender pay gap, regardless of ethnicity. But women in some minority ethnic groups are significantly more likely to do unpaid care work.

Tackle multiple discrimination – Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 has not been commenced. So it is not possible to bring a discrimination claim on the basis of a woman’s true identity, for example as a Black woman, rather than as a Black person or a woman.

Ensure progression for a diversity of women – getting more women to the top is key for closing the gender pay gap. The lack of minority ethnic women in managerial or leadership roles is another factor which needs to be addressed, says the report.

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