Systemic racism persists in England, according to a report submitted to the United Nations by the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.
The report argued that the findings of the recent government-backed report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities were misleading and that outcomes for ethnic minority groups had worsened over the last five years.
It accused the government of being in breach of numerous articles in the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, claiming it had failed to uphold ethnic minorities’ economic, civil, social and political rights.
In employment, it cited numerous studies showing that individuals from Black and other ethnic minority groups suffer higher rates of unemployment, are more likely to be in insecure and low-paid work, and to face discriminatory recruitment practices.
During the Covid pandemic, the Trust highlighted how ethnic minority workers were more likely to have been in “shut-down” sectors and therefore placed on furlough or lost work. It cited figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies showing that 15% of workers in shut-down sectors were from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 12% of the wider labour market.
“This has particularly affected Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers, who are more likely to hold jobs in restaurants, as taxi drivers or in nonessential retail,” it said. “Workers in shut-down sectors are the lowest paid in the workforce, their pay being less than half that of those who have been able to work from home.”
It added that “marked gaps” persist in the pay of ethnic minority workers and white British workers with the same qualifications in similar roles, pointing to Office for National Statistics figures from 2019 showing that most members of minority ethnic groups earned less on average than white British people.
There is often an “ethnic pay penalty” where pay differences are adjusted for other factors such as age, occupation, qualifications, place of birth and whether someone works part time or full time, it added, referring to research from think tank Resolution Foundation. These factors can create “raw” pay gaps that are even starker.
The Runnymede Trust called for the government to extend the powers of the Equality Act 2010 to impose a specific duty on local authorities and national public authorities to gather ethnicity data by pay and grade.
It called on organisations to “use this data to address any wage gaps and discrepancies between experience and qualifications on the one hand and seniority on the other”. Employers should publish this data and details of any measures taken to address the gaps every two years.
The report also called for targeted actions to increase the number of Black and minority entrants into the teaching profession, encouraging schools and other education settings to make “full use” of the positive action provisions of the Equality Act.
The government criticised the content of the report, with a spokesperson responding: “The Runnymede Trust’s shadow report contains many errors and is too simplistic in saying that structural or systemic racism is driving all the disparities outlined in their report.”
A spokesperson for the Trust said: “The independent report clearly finds that racism is systemic in England and that evidence exists for institutional racism in the disproportionate outcomes which cannot all be explained by geography and class. We hope the government does not see this as a confrontation but as the basis of a dialogue on racism.”
The publication of the report comes as the government faces criticism for not taking decisive action to tackle racist abuse online against three Black football players after the England team’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said urgent action was needed, advocating football ground bans for those who have been found guilty of online racist abuse.