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12 October 2020 12:41

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The pay gap between white and ethnic minority employees in England and Wales has narrowed to its smallest level since consistent records began in 2012, the Office for National Statistics has said. The ONS found that median hourly earnings in 2019 for white workers were £12.40 an hour – just more than 2% higher than the £12.11 an hour for ethic minority workers. The gap is down from a peak of more than 8% in the mid-2010s. "This simple comparison between white and ethnic minority groups does, however, mask a wide variety of experiences among different ethnic minorities," the ONS said. It said there were double-digit pay gaps for four groups of ethnic minority employees – 16% for people of Pakistani descent, 15% for white and black African, 15% for Bangladeshi and 13% for white and black Caribbean.

The ONS added that some ethnic groups had consistently earned more than white workers since the series began in 2012. In 2019 median hourly earnings for white Irish employees were 40.5% higher than those for other white employees at £17.55, while Chinese workers earned 23.1% more at £15.38 an hour and Indian workers earned £14.43 an hour – a negative pay gap of 15.5%. Breaking down the data by gender, the ONS said ethnic minority men earned 6.1% less than white men while ethnic minority women earned 2.1% more than white women. The ONS added that ethnicity pay gaps differed by age group. "Among those aged 30 years and over, those in ethnic minority tend to earn less than those of white ethnicities," it said.

In contrast, those in the ethnic minority group aged 16 to 29 years tend to earn more than those of white ethnicities of the same age." The ONS found that the pay gap of 16% for Pakistani employees aged more than 30 shrank to 2% for those aged 16-29. A Chinese-ethnicity employee under the age of 30 earned 46% more than the average white employee, compared with 19% more for an employee over 30. By region, the biggest ethnic pay gap was in London (23.8%) and the smallest was in Wales (1.4%). Taking into account factors such as age, sex, marital status, children, qualifications, country of birth and location of employees narrowed the gap for many ethnic groups, the ONS found. "Adjusting for pay determining characteristics influences the pay gaps observed, with a narrowing of pay gaps for most ethnicities," it said. "This suggests that differences in the average characteristics of different ethnic groups were influencing the unadjusted pay gap, often overstating the difference." The main source of data on earnings used by the ONS was the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. The ethnicity pay gap was ten times higher in London than the rest of the UK. Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images The pay gap between white people and ethnic minorities has narrowed to its lowest level since 2012 but remains stark in London, according to new data. The Office for National Statistics on Monday said the gap in average hourly wages earned by white people and non-white groups fell to 2.3% in the UK in 2019. The pay gap was down from 3.8% in 2018 and a high of 8.4% in 2014. The average hourly wage for a worker from an ethnic minority background stood at £12.11 last year, compared with £12.40 for a white worker. The data hides big disparities between different ethnic groups. People from Pakistani, African, and Bangladeshi backgrounds earned the lowest average wages of the 17 ethnic groups looked at by the ONS. Pakistanis and Bangladeshi workers earn about 15% less than white British employees. George Bangham, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, said pay gaps for some groups such as Black African and Black Caribbean had actually got worse. "It cannot be right that a Black African worker earns 13% less per hour than a white British worker of a similar age, and in a similar job," Bangham said. "A pay penalty that large will reflect a mixture of discrimination and wider disadvantage." At the other end of the scale, some ethnic minority groups earned more than the average white worker. Indian and Chinese workers both earned a higher average hourly rate than white workers. When white Irish people are separated out as a distinct ethnic group, they were the highest earners with an average hourly rate of £17.55. That was 40% above the average wage of their British counterparts. READ MORE: Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson win Nobel Economics Prize 2020 While the national ethnic pay gap is narrowing, it remains stark in the capital. Non-white workers earn almost a quarter less than white people in London. The ethnic pay gap was 23.8% in London. The smallest gap was in Wales, where it stood at just 1.4%. The ethnic pay gaps is also more pronounced for men than women. White men earned 6.1% more than ethnic minority men on average, while white women earned 2.1% more than ethnic minority women. Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, said: "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." Bangham also urged the government to mandate reporting on ethnic pay gaps. "Greater transparency is needed for firms to confront these pay gaps, and the government can help this happen by extending gender pay gap auditing to include ethnicity too," he said. WATCH: What is the new Job Support scheme?