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This month the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published an analysis of ‘ethnicity pay gaps’ in Great Britain. The analysis looks at the difference between the median hourly earnings of White workers and other ethnic groups, using data from 2012 to 2019. This year’s analysis includes a greater number of ethnic groups, with a total of 17 (previously 10), and considers the factors which impact pay for different ethnic groups.
Gender pay gap reporting is mandatory for employers with 250 or more employees, but there is no such requirement to publicly report their ethnicity pay gap. According to a PwC study reported in September 2020, two thirds of businesses surveyed are now collecting ethnicity data on their employees and almost a quarter have calculated their ethnicity pay gap. There are rising calls for employers to deliver up this data voluntarily as a first step towards driving change and closing the ethnicity pay gap.
The ONS report shows that the hourly median pay gap between White and the ethnic minority groups has narrowed to the smallest since 2012. However, such a simple comparison between White and ethnic minority groups does mask a wide variety of experiences among different ethnic minorities. While the 17-category ethnicity breakdown provides greater detail, the sample sizes for some ethnic groups are small, resulting in the ONS warning that some data “should be treated with caution”.
Most minority ethnic groups earned less on average than White British people in 2019, although interestingly some groups earned more than their White British counterparts.
The analysis also explored other variables within ethnicity such as age, gender, occupation, country of birth, qualifications and disability status, amongst others.
The ONS analysis shows some interesting trends, but also highlights the lack of data in this area. PwC’s September 2020 study reported that the main reason amongst employers not calculating their ethnicity pay gap was lack of data and some cited an “unease about how to ask questions around race and ethnicity”. PwC’s study shines a spotlight on employers addressing ethnic diversity and equality in their workforce and highlights that data is critical in addressing racial inequality in areas such as recruitment, progression and attrition.
Information is power, as they say, and actioning real change requires asking the hard questions.
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