The pay gap between white and ethnic minority employees has narrowed to its lowest level since 2012 in England and Wales.

According to new research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reporting on 2019 figures, the hourly median pay between white and ethnic minority employees has reduced to its lowest level since 2012.

Last year, HRreview reported on the ONS findings of 2018 where some ethnicities such as Bangladeshi employees earnt up to a fifth less on average than a white British person per hour.

However, the latest numbers show that this gap has closed drastically. In 2019, the median hourly pay for white British employees was £12.40 per hour whilst the ethnic minority group earnt around £12.11 an hour, showing a pay gap of 2.3 per cent – England and Wales’ lowest since 2012. This is in comparison to the largest pay gap on record which occurred in 2014 and stood at 8.4 per cent.

Although these figures suggest positive change, the experiences within the ethnic minority group is widely varied depending on the different ethnicities.

For those of Pakistani ethnicity, the wage gap in 2019 stood at 16 per cent which was the biggest wage gap of any ethnicity. In comparison to the average wage per hour of a white British employee (£12.49), those of Pakistani descent only earned £10.55.

Contrastingly, the average white Irish employee earned, on average in 2019, £17.55 an hour in comparison to the average white British employee who earned £12.49. This was a wage gap of 41 per cent.

Similarly, those of Chinese descent earned, on average, £15.38 an hour which was a wage gap of 23 per cent compared to the average white British employee.

When accounting for gender, men from an ethnic minority group earned 6.1 per cent less than their white, male counterparts. However, the hourly pay of the average woman from the ethnic minority group was 2.1 per cent higher than that of the average white, female employee.

In terms of location, London reported the highest wage gap between ethnic minority and white employees. This wage gap stood at almost 23.8 per cent, with white British employees earning more than those in the ethnic minority group. Wales showed the least disparity with a wage gap of only 1.4 per cent between the two groups.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has urged the Government to introduce mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting:

The difficult reality is that even today structural and individual racism still plays a role in determining pay and life chances. And coronavirus has exposed beyond any doubt the huge inequalities BME people face at work.

BME men and women are overrepresented in undervalued, low-paid and casual jobs, with fewer rights and no sick pay. During the pandemic many of them have paid for these poor working conditions with their lives.

Enough is enough. Ministers must take bold action to confront inequality and racism in the labour market. And the obvious first step is to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting without delay.


*The ONS statistics are taken from a report called Ethnicity Pay Gaps in Great Britain 2019 which compiled data on earnings and employment statistics for different ethnic groups in 2019. All data was collected before the the impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy.