Widespread inequality risks increasing race tensions, warns Commission

Published: 18 Aug 2016

Failure to tackle deep-rooted race inequality will exacerbate divisions in our society unless urgent Government action is taken, the new Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned today.

The Commission has today published the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain across every aspect of people’s lives, including education, employment, housing, pay and living standards, health, criminal justice and participation. It reveals that while for certain people life has become fairer over the past five years, for others progress has stalled and for some– in particular young Black people – life on many fronts has got worse.

Chair David Isaac said the report reveals a ‘very worrying combination’ of a post-Brexit rise in hate crime and long-term systemic unfairness and race inequality’.

David Isaac also said that the new Prime Minister’s statements are ‘very encouraging’ but previous efforts to address race inequality have been ‘piecemeal and stuttering’ with ‘more one nation platitudes than policies’.

He has also called for a comprehensive new race strategy from Government, the development of stretching new targets to reduce race inequality including in criminal justice, education and employment, as well as better research and reporting to monitor progress.

Today’s report reveals:

  • Black people are much more likely to be victims of crime and be treated more harshly in the criminal justice system. You are more than twice as likely to be murdered if you are Black in England and Wales and three times more likely to be prosecuted and sentenced than if you are White. In addition to this, race remains the most commonly recorded motivation of hate crime in England and Wales at 82%.
  • Despite improving educational attainment, ethnic minority people are still being held back in the job market. Black, Asian and ethnic minority workers with degrees are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than White workers with degrees. Black workers with degrees are paid 23.1% less on average than White workers with degrees.
  • If you are young and from an ethnic minority, your life chances have got much worse over the past five years and are at the most challenging for generations. Since 2010, there has been a 49% increase in the number of 16 to 24 year olds across the UK from ethnic minority communities who are long-term unemployed, compared with a fall of 2% if you are White. Black workers are also more than twice as likely to be in insecure forms of employment such as temporary contracts or working for an agency – which increased by nearly 40% for Black and Asian workers, compared with a 16% rise for White workers.
  • Conversely Chinese students and Indian communities are progressing well in many areas of life. The gap between Chinese/Indian and White pupils is growing – in Wales 79.8% of Chinese pupils and 60.8% of Asian pupils achieved A-C grade GCSEs compared with 55.9% of White pupils. However, poor White boys continue to have the worst GCSE results overall. Only 28.3% of those in England achieved at least five grade A-C GCSE results. Asian and Chinese school children have the lowest rate of exclusion, Indians have the lowest unemployment rate among ethnic minority groups at 9.2% compared with 17.3% for Pakistanis/Bangladeshis, and Indians are on average paid 8.9% more per hour than White people. 
  • White women are more likely to report being a victim of domestic abuse than ethnic minority women. This was 7.4% of White women compared with 4.4% of ethnic minority women. However, Black and ethnic minority women exclusively suffer from FGM, honour killing and forced marriage, and specialist services are struggling to meet demand (particularly due to a lack of funding).
  • When it comes to who runs Britain, overall ethnic minorities are still hugely underrepresented in positions of power – 14% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority background, but out of the 2,686 judges who declared their ethnicity in England and Wales, only 159 (5.9%) were from an ethnic minority. In addition to this, ethnic minority police officers made up only 5.5% of all officers in England and Wales and there are no ethnic minority Chief Constables.

There have also been areas where we have seen welcome progress. For example, the 2015 General Election saw an increase in the proportion of ethnic minority MPs from 4.2% to 6.3%, and since 2008, all ethnic groups have seen an increase in the proportion with a degree-level qualification. For Indian people it was (18.1 percentage points) to 49.5%, for African/Caribbean/Black it was (9.6pp) to (34.7%) and for Pakistani/Bangladeshi it was (9.7pp) to 27.6%.

However, this is not nearly enough progress and much more still needs to be done. Today’s report makes recommendations to the UK Government including:

  • the need for a comprehensive, coordinated and long-term UK Government strategy with clear and measurable outcomes to achieve race equality
  • that the strategy should be developed and delivered between the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and should come under the responsibility of one secretary of state, with clear accountability across Government, and
  • that all Governments should improve their ethnicity data and ensure it covers a range of research, statistics and ethnic groups to inform their race equality strategies.

In addition to this, the Commission recently wrote to the UN Committee on race (CERD) setting out a series of recommendations for the UK Government to tackle race inequality. These include :

  • UK Government should carry out a full-scale review of the operation and effectiveness of the sentencing for hate crimes in England and Wales, including the ability to increase sentencing for crimes motivated by hate
  • UK Government should take steps to mitigate any discriminatory effects from the access to justice reforms, and
  • UK Government should ensure that police forces use monitoring, training and scrutiny to make sure stop and search is being used in a lawful and non-discriminatory way. 

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“The combination of the post-Brexit rise in hate crime and deep race inequality in Britain is very worrying and must be tackled urgently.

“Today's report underlines just how entrenched race inequality and unfairness still is in our society.

“We must redouble our efforts to tackle race inequality urgently or risk the divisions in our society growing and racial tensions increasing.

“If you are Black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you’re living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society.

“It is very encouraging to hear the new Prime Minister's commitment to tackling inequality. In order to achieve this it is vital that the Government puts in place a comprehensive and coherent race strategy that tackles these pressing issues and prevents some communities being cut even further adrift from equality of opportunity.”

Our in-depth analysis of existing evidence highlights a worrying picture of race inequality. This includes:


  • Unemployment rates were significantly higher for ethnic minorities at 12.9% compared with 6.3 % for White people.
  • Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than White workers.
  • In Britain, significantly lower percentages of ethnic minorities (8.8%) worked as managers, directors and senior officials, compared with White people (10.7%). This was particularly true for African/Caribbean/Black people (5.7%) and those of Mixed ethnicity (7.2%).
  • Black people who leave school with A-levels typically get paid 14.3% less than their White peers.


  • Just 6% of Black school leavers attended a Russell Group university, compared with 12% of Mixed and Asian school leavers and 11% of White school leavers.
  • Black Caribbean and Mixed White/Black Caribbean children have rates of permanent exclusion about three times that of the pupil population as a whole. 


  • Rates of prosecution and sentencing for Black people were three times higher than for White people –18 per thousand population compared with six per thousand population for White people. For sentencing it was 13 per thousand population for Black people and five per thousand population for White people. 
  • In England and Wales ethnic minority children and adults are more likely to be a victim of homicide. The homicide rate for Black people was 30.5 per million population, 14.1 for Asian people and 8.9 for White people.
  • White women are more at risk of domestic abuse than ethnic minority women.  7.4 % reported being victims of abuse compared with 4.4 % of ethnic minority women.
  • Race hate crimes on Britain’s railway networks have risen by 37 %.
  • In England, 37.4% of Black people and 44.8% of Asian people felt unsafe being at home or around their local area, compared with 29.2% of White people.

Living standards

  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi and Black adults are more likely to live in substandard accommodation than White people. 30.9 % of Pakistani/Bangladeshi people live in overcrowded accommodation, while for Black people the figure is 26.8% and for White people it is 8.3%.
  • If you are an ethnic minority person, you are still more likely to live in poverty.  Our evidence shows that 35.7% of ethnic minorities were more likely to live in poverty compared with 17.2% of White people.
  • In Scotland, ethnic minority households are more likely to experience overcrowding. This was 11.8% for ethnic minority households compared with 2.9% for White households.

Health and care

  • Black African women had a mortality rate four times higher than White women in the UK.
  • There is a significant disproportionate number of ethnic minorities detained under mental health legislation in hospitals in England and Wales – Black African women were seven times more likely to be detained than White British women.
  • Gypsies, Travellers and Roma were found to suffer poorer mental health than the rest of the population in Britain. They were also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

David Isaac added:

“We need to build a fair society in which our origins do not determine our destinies.

“So far, the Government’s economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity.

“We agree with the Government that we must urgently lift our ambitions and are determined to work with the new Prime Minister to redouble efforts to build a fair society.”

Notes to editors

For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 0161 829 8102, out of office hours 07767 272 818.

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102