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Connecting women and opportunity

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We must tackle employment and pay penalties for BAME graduates in the workforce – Dr. Kathleen Henehan, Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation


Dr. Kathleen Henehan is a Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, having joined in 2017, working on post-16 skills and education, including apprenticeships, technical and higher education, and adult skills development. Prior to joining the Resolution Foundation, Kathleen worked at Universities UK, where she focused on graduate employment outcomes and learning and teaching policy. She has a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science from the London School of Economics.

Kathleen-Henehan - Resolution Foundation
Dr. Kathleen Henehan

The proportion of BAME workers with degrees has increased rapidly over the last two decades, but this group still faces a jobs gap and pay penalty compared to white graduates in the workforce, according to analysis published by the Resolution Foundation.

Employment and pay penalties for BAME graduates in the workforce

The rising share of people going to university is a well known British success story of recent decades. The progress made by black and ethnic minority groups is particularly astounding, with the share of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates trebling in less than 20 years.

But despite this success, graduates from a black and ethnic minority background still face significant employment and pay penalties in the workforce. These labour market disadvantages are a big living standards concern for individuals and a wider economic problem as it means we are failing to make the most of the investment in their education.

The Government is right to be exploring these and other significant race disparities. Understanding the extent and root causes of these disadvantages is an important step towards the far bigger challenge of tackling them.

Key research findings:

  • The proportion of working age people with degrees has increased across all ethnic groups in recent decades, from 12% in 1996-99 to 30% in 2014-17. This growth has been particularly rapid among BAME groups.
  • The proportion of working age Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people with degrees has more than trebled since the end of the 1990s to their current levels of 50%, 30% and 25% respectively. Over the same period, the proportion of white people with degrees has also increased but less rapidly, rising from 12% to 28%. Chinese people are the most likely to have degrees at 60%.
  • Despite strong employment growth in recent years, Bangladeshi and Pakistani graduates are around 12% less likely to be in work than white British graduates, while Indian and Black Caribbean graduates have a jobs gap of around 5%.
  • The jobs gap for BAME graduates is bigger for young people (16-34 year olds) – 15% compared to 10.3% for all working age adults – who still start out on a disadvantaged footing, despite their progress on educational attainment.
  • BAME graduates are also more likely to work in low-paid occupations such as caring, leisure and sales jobs, and elementary occupations such as cleaners and security staff. The report finds that Black African (25.2%) and Bangladeshi (21.8%) graduates are twice as likely to work in these low-paying occupations as Indian (12.6%), white (10.6%) and Chinese (8.7%) graduates.
  • The higher likelihood of BAME graduates working in low-paying sectors is a key cause of the pay gap that affects almost all BAME groups. Chinese and Indian male graduates are the only groups to earn more than white male counterparts (whose median hourly pay is £18.57). The biggest graduate pay gaps – of around 28% – are between white men and Black African women, Pakistani women, and Pakistani men.

Read our briefing note about this research.

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