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On pay and wealth, damaging race inequalities prevail

Torsten Bell
·1-min read
<span>Photograph: kali9/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: kali9/Getty Images

The recent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report generated controversy, but little light, which is what failure looks like when your purpose is to shed light on the disadvantages faced by ethnic minorities. So let’s get the facts straight, labour market and living standards wise.

Related: Race report: 'the government has completely missed the mark'

There is positive news. Over 20 years to 2016-17, employment among black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men grew by more than a quarter. It doubled among Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. This partly reflects education – the pre-pandemic decade saw a 28 percentage point rise in women from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds having degrees.

But, as LSE economists show, that doesn’t mean all is rosy. Understanding the impact of ethnicity means comparing people of similar age and qualifications. On that basis, pay gaps haven’t closed in decades (last week’s report concluded the opposite). Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani men earn 10%-25% less than similar white men. Female employment gaps haven’t closed either. These findings of persistent disadvantage match our own work (ignored by the commission) and are consistent with discrimination and structural inequalities. Forthcoming Resolution Foundation research suggests Covid-19 has reinforced these disadvantages.

Wealth gaps are bigger. Black home-ownership rates are under half those of white. Bangladeshi adults have a quarter of the wealth held by white adults on average. With evidence of such inequalities, it’s beyond me how anyone thinks it’s job done.

• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at