United Kingdom

Work and ethnicity

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • One in seven adults aged 25 to retirement from ethnic minorities are not working but want to, lower than a decade ago but still much higher than that for White people.
  • Over the period 2008 to 2010 (i.e. the current recession), the proportion of adults aged 25 to retirement from ethnic minorities who are not working but want to one percentage point.  This is a noticeably lower rise than that for White people (one percentage point compared with two)
  • According to the 2001 Census, around 15% of non-retired White British men aged 25 and over do not work, with similar proportions for White other and for Indians.  By contrast, the equivalent proportions for Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Black Africans and Black Caribbeans are 30-40%.
  • Around 30% of non-retired White British women aged 25 and over do not work, with only slightly higher proportions for Black Caribbeans, White other and Indians.  For Black Africans, the proportion rises to almost 50%.  But what really stands out is that the vast majority – 80% – of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women do not work.
  • Closer examination of the reasons for not working suggests that much of the differences in work rates for Black Africans is explained by the high proportion who are students.
  • According to the Labour Force Survey, the proportion of adults aged 25 to retirement who are both not working and say that they do not want paid work is, at 35%, much higher for Bangladeshis and Pakistanis than for other ethnic groups (10-15%).  By contrast, the proportion of adults aged 25 to retirement who are both not working and say that they do want paid work is, at 15%, not vastly dissimilar for Bangladeshis and Pakistanis as for other ethnic groups.
  • The proportion of Black African, Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean working-age households who are workless is, at around 25%, much higher than the equivalent proportion for White British households (15%).  Only 10% of Indian working-age households are workless.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Some ethnic groups have high levels of worklessness.

Definitions and data sources

The first three graphs relate to adults aged 25 to retirement rather than to all those of working age.  This is because they include statistics about people who are not working and do not want paid work.  Many students fall into this category and their inclusion would arguably distort, and certainly change, the proportions.  Excluding those under 25 effectively deals with this issue by excluding the age group which has a high proportion of students.

The first graph shows the proportion of people from ethnic minorities aged 25 to retirement who lack but want paid work, with the data shown separately for those who are ILO unemployed and those who are ‘economically inactive’ but want paid work.  For comparison purposes, the equivalent data for White people is also shown.

The second graph shows the proportion of each ethnic group aged 25 to retirement who are not in paid work, with the data broken down by whether or not they want paid work.

The data source for the first two graphs is the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the data relates to the United Kingdom.  The figures for each year are the average for the four quarters of the relevant year.  In the second graph, the averaging over three years has been done to improve statistical reliability.

‘Unemployment’ is the ILO (International Labour Organization) definition, namely jobless people who (a) want to work, (b) are available to start work in the next two weeks, and (c) have been actively seeking work in the last four weeks, or who have just found a job and are waiting to start.

Everybody who is either working or unemployed is ‘economically active’; everybody else is ‘economically inactive’.  This means that someone is economically inactive if they are not working and they fail any one or more of the three criteria (a) to (c) above.

The LFS survey includes a question asking the economically inactive whether they would like paid work or not.  The total number who lack but want paid work is then the sum of the unemployed plus the economically inactive who want paid work.

The third graph shows, for men and women separately, the proportion of each ethnic group aged 25 and over, excluding those who classify themselves as retired, who were not in paid work in 2001.

The data source for the third graph is the 2001 Census and the data relates to England and Wales (tables TH013 and so108).  Census data, rather than the Labour Force Survey, has been used for sample size reasons.

Whereas the first three graphs relate to individuals, the fourth graph relates to households.  It shows how the proportion of working-age households who are workless varies by ethnic group.

The data source for the fourth graph is the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the data relates to the United Kingdom.  A working-age household is one in which at least one of the people is aged 16 to 59/64.  Households which are entirely composed of full-time students have been excluded from the analysis, as have households where their economic status is not known.  The ethnic group of the household has been allocated according to the ethnic group of the Household Reference Person.  The averaging over three years has been done to improve its statistical reliability.

Both the definition of ‘ethnic minority’ and the division between different ethnic minority groups is driven by the data.  In the first graph, the White group includes both ‘White British’ and ‘White other’ and the ethnic minority group includes people from a mixed ethnic background.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The LFS is a well-established, quarterly government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole, but both the ethnic classification and sample sizes limit what analyses can be undertaken.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Maximise employment opportunity for all.

Lead department

Department for Work and Pensions.

Official national targets

None.

Other indicators of progress

Overall employment rate taking account of the economic cycle.

Narrow the gap between the employment rates of the following disadvantaged groups and the overall rate: disabled people; lone parents; ethnic minorities; people aged 50 and over; those with no qualifications; and those living in the most deprived Local Authority wards.

Number of people on working age out-of-work benefits.

Amount of time people spend on out-of-work benefits.

Overall aim:  Address the disadvantage that individuals experience because of their gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

Lead department

Government Equalities Office.

Official national targets

None.

Other indicators of progress

Gender gap in hourly pay.

Level of choice, control and flexibility to enable independent living.

Participation in public life by women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and young people.

Discrimination in employment.

Fairness of treatment by services.

Previous 2004 targets

As part of the wider objective of full employment in every region, over the three years to Spring 2008, and taking account of the economic cycle, demonstrate progress on increasing the employment rate.

As part of the wider objective of full employment in every region, over the three years to Spring 2008, and taking account of the economic cycle:

  • increase the employment rates of disadvantaged groups (lone parents, ethnic minorities, people aged 50 and over, those with the lowest qualifications, and those living in local authority wards with the poorest initial labour market position); and
  • significantly reduce the difference between the employment rates of the disadvantaged groups and the overall rate.

As a contribution to reducing the proportion of children living in households where no-one is working by 2008:

  • increase the stock of Ofsted-registered childcare by 10%;
  • increase the take-up of formal childcare by lower income working families by 50%; and
  • introduce by April 2005, a successful light-touch childcare approval scheme.

By 2008, working with all departments, bring about measurable improvements in gender equality across a range of indicators, as part of the Government’s objectives on equality and social inclusion.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year From an ethnic minority
Working Unemployed (ILO definition) 'Economically inactive' who want work 'Economically inactive' who do not want work
1997 62% 9% 9% 21%
1998 63% 7% 8% 21%
1999 63% 8% 8% 21%
2000 63% 7% 9% 21%
2001 63% 6% 9% 22%
2002 64% 6% 8% 21%
2003 64% 6% 8% 21%
2004 66% 5% 7% 21%
2005 67% 5% 7% 20%
2006 68% 7% 7% 19%
200768% 6% 7% 19%
200869% 6% 7% 18%
200968% 8% 6% 18%
201069% 7% 6% 17%

Graph 2

Ethnic group Unemployed (ILO definition) 'Economically inactive' who want work Total lacking but wanting work
'Economically inactive' who do not want work
Bangladeshi 8% 7% 15% 34%
Black - African 10% 8% 18% 16%
Black - Caribbean 10% 7% 18% 9%
Indian 5% 4% 9% 14%
Pakistani 7% 7% 15% 32%
White - British 4% 5% 9% 12%
White - other4% 5% 9% 11%

Graph 3

Ethnic group MenWomen
Bangladeshi 38% 85%
Black - African 37% 48%
Black - Caribbean 31% 32%
Indian 19% 38%
Pakistani 33% 78%
White - British 17% 29%
White - other 23% 35%

Graph 4

Bangladeshi 25%
Black - African 26%
Black - Caribbean 24%
Indian 9%
Pakistani 22%
White - British 16%
White - other 12%