Black Britons and those of south Asian origin face “shocking” discrimination in the labour market at levels unchanged since the late 1960s, research has found.
A study by experts based at the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a white person of British origin.Comparing their results with similar field experiments dating back to 1969, researchers found discrimination against black Britons and those of south Asian origin – particularly Pakistanis – unchanged over almost 50 years.
Prof Anthony Heath, co-author and emeritus fellow of Nuffield College, said: “The absence of any real decline in discrimination against black British and people of Pakistani background is a disturbing finding, which calls into question the effectiveness of previous policies. Ethnic inequality remains a burning injustice and there needs to be a radical rethink about how to tackle it.”
Dr Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the race equality thinktank Runnymede, described the findings as shocking. They demonstrated that “it’s not just covert racism or unconscious bias that we need to worry about; it’s overt and conscious racism, where applicants are getting shortlisted on the basis of their ethnicity and/or name”, she said. “It’s clear that race relations legislation is not sufficient to hold employers to account. There are no real consequences for employers of racially discriminating in subtle ways, but for BME applicants or employees it means higher unemployment, lower wages, poorer conditions and less security in work and life.”
Dr Valentina Di Stasio, co-author and an assistant professor at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, said: “The persistent gaps in callbacks found for more visible and culturally distant minorities, regardless of the occupation considered or the information included in the application, suggest that employers may simply read no further as soon as they see a Middle East-sounding or African-sounding name.”
Researchers said the high levels of discrimination from countries with a sizeable Muslim population echoed “strong anti-Muslim attitudes recorded in recent surveys”. They said that while surveys had found declining racial prejudice among the public, the lack of change in the workplace reflected the continued presence of “employer stereotypes about the linguistic and work-related skills and motivations of minorities”.