Racial discrimination

The main ethnic minorities in the UK have family backgrounds in Commonwealth countries such the Indian sub-continent, the West Indies and parts of Africa. Most non-white Britons were born in this country.

Catering worker washing up a large saucepan
Catering worker washing up large saucepan

However, despite Race Relations Acts, non-white citizens still encounter discrimination and even hostility. On average they have lower incomes, higher unemployment and are more likely to live in overcrowded accommodation than the white majority.

Although the law forbids racial discrimination ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty. Despite this in Scotland they do well in education with people of African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and Chinese background out performing white pupils at National 4, 5 and Higher level. In the UK as a whole more minorities got to university than whites.

The problem for minorities start after graduation being much less likely to be employed and likely to be earning less money if they are employed. Despite this minorities in the UK are more likely to work in the professions than whites. The last census showed that 10.3% of minorities worked in the top professional jobs compared to 9.8% of whites. In particular minorities dominate some particular professions e.g. 50% of dentists and 44% of doctors.

Cultural factors such as religion and language can make it harder for some groups to gain employment or participate in some aspects of UK society. There are also differences between ethnic minorities. Some Asian groups, such as Indians and Chinese, tend to be better off than Afro-Caribbeans as they are more likely to own businesses and have professional qualifications.

Black Lives Matter protest, London, 6 August 2016
Black Lives Matter protest, London, 6 August 2016

Relations between the police and some minority communities have been difficult. The police have problems recruiting from these communities despite programmes designed to improve the very low percentage of Asian and Black officers.

When most officers are white this can make it more difficult to police areas such as Brixton in London which are predominantly black. Unfortunately there is evidence of racist attitudes within some police forces. Cases such as that of Stephen Lawrence led to official reports, such as the MacPherson Report, which concluded that the police still have to improve the ways they work with minorities.

In 2007 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) combined the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission. The EHRC works to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality and protect human rights so everyone has a fair chance to participate in society. It also has the responsibility for other aspects of equality: age, sexual orientation and religion or belief, as well as human rights.

The Equality Act was passed in October 2010. It was introduced to strengthen discrimination legislation in all its forms and thus make Britain a fairer place. It replaced nine major pieces of legislation dating back to the Equal Pay Act (1970) and Discrimination Act (2005).

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