UKREN blog

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Ethnicity facts and figures

This particular story starts in July 2016 (although the theme of the story started a long time ago) when Prime Minister Theresa May stood on the steps of No 10 and pledged to do something about the “burning injustices in society” - the different outcomes that an individual will experience that are because of that person’s ethnicity.

Over the course of just over a year, a team of officials at the Cabinet Office called the Race Disparity Audit - including highly experienced statisticians, have brought together data from across government. In fact 150 different data sets were used from the 340 examined. The data and some commentary was published last week on a government website ‘Ethnicity facts and figures’. 

What this covers

The broad topics covered by the data are:

  • crime, justice and the law
  • culture and community
  • education, skills and training
  • health
  • housing
  • work, pay and benefits.

Each section has a short narrative account ‘three most important facts’ and data. One can drill down to more specific issues, for example under ‘education' to different age/exam levels, and further and higher education and apprenticeships, after education and school exclusions. The data is set out in accessible charts. One can drill down to data not only by ethnic group but by location. Although there its a mass of data there, clearly the Cabinet Office team have thought hard at making it easy to access. 

Some key findings

Here are a selection of findings.

  • Asian and Black households and those in the Other ethnic group were more likely to be poor and were the most likely to be in persistent poverty. Around 1 in 4 children in households headed by people from an Asian background or those in the Other ethnic group were in persistent poverty, as were 1 in 5 children in Black households and 1 in 10 White British households.
  • Pupils in several ethnic groups were achieving and progressing better than White British pupils. Pupils from Chinese and Indian backgrounds showed high attainment and progress throughout their school careers and high rates of entry to university. Pupils from Gypsy and Roma, or Irish Traveller background (which are not included in the White British category), had the lowest attainment and progress, and were least likely to stay in education after the age of 16.
  • Employment rates have increased for all ethnic groups, but substantial differences remain in their participation in the labour market; around 1 in 10 adults from a Black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Mixed background were unemployed compared with 1 in 25 White British people.
  • There are lower levels of confidence in the police among Black people, and especially among younger Black adults. Of all defendants, including juveniles, who were remanded at Crown Court for indictable offences, the proportion of defendants who were remanded in custody (rather than allowed out on bail) was highest for Black defendants, and particularly for Black males.


Great, but any problems?

The biggest issue is that it is just data. Publishing race equality data is a good to do and I’ll talk more about what action we can undertake, in a minute. But there are no policy recommendations. It could just end up as a data service for academics, who are probably the biggest users of ONS published data. And the data is only as good as what was collected. If you get what I mean.

Secondly, by so boldly displaying data by ethnic group, there is a risk of further discrimination. For example Gypsies and Travellers and Roma showed the worst outcomes by far in education. Schools, already pressured into league table thinking, may deny the enrolment of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma pupils for fear that their overall school results will fall, or the schools may be more ready to exclude such pupils, based on the evidence on the ethnicity facts and figures website. That ‘worst case’ scenario could be seen for any of the data sets that are published.

Thirdly, that government departments and government-funded services focus on being defensive, rather than pro-actively looking for solutions to the reasons for the disparities by ethnicity.

So what can NGOs and communities do?

Do have a look at the website and its data. This, to me, provides the evidence (in many cases further evidence) that we have known for a long time. But packaged with government approval. It can be used to advocate for changes.

Firstly, I think NGOs (how about collaborating on this?) should apply constant pressure on the Prime Minister and government departments to turn the data findings into a strategy to address the injustice, that has concrete policy changes. Her work on modern slavery does show that (sometimes) policy follows speeches.

Secondly at the local level, society (NGOs, communities, local government and government-funded organisations) should get together to add meaning to the quantitative data. Why are there such problems in our particular area. And to together find solutions. This is something that UKREN is exploring in 4 of the 20 ‘hot spots’ identified in the data, by organising focus groups there in November to explore these two questions. Check UKREN’s website over the next few weeks for details. BTEG and CORE are also doing work on making sense of the data. I’m sure other organisations will too.

Another avenue is to build on the positive media coverage from the publication of the website. I was listening to a Radio 2 broadcast (yeah, no comments about my taste, age or other stereotypes from listening to R2!) where the DJ recommended that people check the data for their locality and do something positive about it.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (together with some leading NGOs) have also published a useful report, Roadmap to Race Equality. This is a plan that says that action should be taken to:


  • reduce the ethnicity employment and pay gaps so that everyone has a chance to get a job that matches their abilities and be fairly rewarded for it
  • improve educational outcomes so that every child has a fair chance to fulfil their potential irrespective of their ethnicity
  • tackle the disproportionate numbers of ethnic minority groups living in substandard, overcrowded and inappropriate accommodation
  • improve access to healthcare and health outcomes
  • improve trust and ensure fairness in the criminal justice system where ethnic minorities are over-represented both as victims and defendants of crime.


Let’s use that plan.


Thinking about it, it is not so often that one has even the opportunity to say something good about the government when it comes to race equality and the rights of migrants. However, although I have outlined some risks, I think the opportunities far outweigh these, and applaud the government for publishing the data. It does make for some disturbing reading.

So let’s keep the Prime Minister to her word to tackle the burning injustices in society, and push for a clear strategy and policies to tackle the disparities.

Alan Anstead, Coordinator of UKREN


This is a longer version of an article that was first published on Migrants' Rights Network's website


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