Ethnic minorities face barriers to social mobility and job opportunities

theguardian: by Ami Sedghi —

Britain’s ethnic minorities still face significant barriers to social mobility despite many having better qualifications than their white counterparts, according to researchers at the University of Manchester.

Chinese, Indian, Irish, Bangladeshi and black African students are now outperforming their white British peers in obtaining five or more GSCEs at grade A* to C, but increased attainment over the past 20 years has failed to translate into improved job outcomes, say academics from the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity.

About 43% of Chinese and 42% of Indian people had a degree-level qualification in 2011, compared with 26% of white British, while the most disadvantaged of the black and ethnic minority groups (BME) – Pakistani and Bangladeshi – had almost quadrupled their rates of degree-level qualifications since 1991.

Dr Laurence Brown, who contributed to the report, said: “It’s clear that ethnic minorities in Britain are – in many cases – outperforming their white peers in both secondary and higher education. However, very few of these gains in education have translated into employment outcomes.”

Black male unemployment has remained persistently double that of the white male population over the past two decades, and although self-employment is often seen as a promising route for ethnic economic advancement, for Pakistani men there is a disproportionate clustering in the transport sector – 53% of self-employed Pakistani men working in the transport industry compared to 8% of the rest of the population.

Bringing together some of Britain’s largest longitudinal surveys, experts at the university defined rates of social mobility through finding the percentage who moved up or down from the occupational class of their father.

They found that 43% of white men and 45.6% white women moved up to a higher socio-economic class than their father and that in contrast, first generation black African, Indian and Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups had significantly lower upward mobility rates. Just 34.3% of first generation Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and 27.6% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women moved up from the socio-economic class of their father.

The researchers also found that social mobility differed with gender. Researchers noted that this was especially pronounced in the second generation black Caribbean and Chinese groups, with black Caribbean men (39.3%) and Chinese women (46.8%) experiencing lower rates of upward mobility than black Caribbean women (67.3%) or Chinese men (56.9%). They also described how second generation south-Asian men have benefitted more from upward occupational mobility than women.

The authors say their study shows a “need for new routes to mobility is crucial” as traditional pathways such as public sector employment have significantly narrowed over the past 20 years.

“The need for new routes to mobility is crucial given the over-exposure of ethnic minorities to deprivation and poverty in Britain, ” explains Brown. “A third of Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups in England and a fifth of its Black African, Black Caribbean, and Arab populations live in the country’s most deprived neighbourhoods compared with 8% of the white British population. “That is why finding new ways of enabling social mobility is a fundamental issue which needs to be tackled by policy makers.”

The report, which will be presented at the House of Lords on Thursday in a seminar sponsored by Baroness Prashar, brings together education and employment research based on census analysis of ethnic groups with a considerable number of longitudinal surveys of individual experiences of social mobility.

Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust thinktank, said: “This and previous other research has looked at other suggested explanations for why these persistent inequalities exist, but these other factors only explain part of the difference we continue to see between ethnic minorities and white British people today. This is yet another study that shows we have a long way to go to show we are a fair and society where ethnic minorities are able to fulfil their aspirations.”

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