1. Key points

  • In the 2011 Census, the Other White ethnic group (77%) had the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups (aged 16 to 64). This was the case for both men (82%) and women (72%) from this group.

  • The proportion of men aged 16 to 64 who were unemployed was highest in the Other Black (17%), White and Black Caribbean (16%) and Caribbean (15%) ethnic groups. For women it was highest for Black African (12%), White and Black Caribbean (11%) and Other Black (11%) groups.

  • The highest rates of economic inactivity for men were in the Chinese (40%), Arab (40%) and Gypsy or Irish Travellers (39%) ethnic groups. The highest rates for women were Arab (64%) Bangladeshi (61%), Pakistani (60%) and Gypsy or Irish Traveller (60%).

  • Of those in employment, men from the Pakistani (57%), Black African (54%) and Bangladeshi (53%) ethnic groups were most likely to work in low skilled jobs. For women the most likely were Gypsy or Irish Traveller (71%), Bangladeshi (67%) and White and Black Caribbean (66%).

  • Of those in employment, Gypsy and Irish Traveller men (41%) and women (18%) had the highest proportion of all ethnic groups who were self-employed.

  • Over half (54%) of Bangladeshi men in employment worked part-time (less than 30 hours a week) and just over 1 in 10 worked 15 hours a week or less (12%).

  • Bangladeshi (56%) and Gypsy or Irish Traveller (54%) women were the most likely to work part-time (less than 30 hours a week). Bangladeshi and Pakistani women had the highest proportion working less than 15 hours a week (23% and 20% respectively).

  • Young people (aged 16-24) from the Gypsy or Irish Travellers (14%), White and Black Caribbean (13%) and Black Caribbean (12%) ethnic groups had the highest proportion of young people who were unemployed.

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2. Introduction

The population of England and Wales has become increasingly ethnically diverse. In the 2011 Census around one in five people (19.5% of the population overall) identified with an ethnic minority group1. Evidence has shown that patterns of economic activity vary widely across different ethnic minority groups with some groups experiencing lower employment and higher inactivity rates.

This article begins by looking at the position of the five broad ethnic groups (employment and inactivity rates) in the labour market over time in England and Wales from 2001 to 2014 using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS provides the main source of aggregate labour market statistics in the UK and provides the most frequent and timely estimates. The Census provides a snapshot across a range of household characteristics and is useful for the analysis of population of sub groups. There are differences in labour market indicators between the Census and the LFS which have been discussed in an earlier ONS article (for further details see background notes).

This article uses 2011 Census data to undertake a more detailed cross sectional analysis using the full 18 ethnic group classification. It examines economic activity (employment, unemployment and economic inactivity) and characteristics of employment (occupation, industry and employment patterns) looking at male and female differences. It also explores young people (aged 16 -24) in the labour market.

Notes

  1. Ethnic minority group is defined as all other ethnic groups outside of White British (In the 2011 Census 80.5% of the usual resident population identified as White British). Note for the LFS time series the overall White group is shown which includes minority White groups.
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4. Economic activity by ethnic group

The 2011 Census provides a snapshot across a range of household characteristics at a detailed geographical level and can be used for analysis of population sub-groups such as different ethnic minority groups. The focus in this article uses the full 18 category ethnic group classification used in the 2011 Census.

In the 2011 Census there were 36.3 million people aged 16 to 64 in England and Wales. Of these, 7.5 million people (21%) identified with an ethnic group other than White British. Table 1 shows how labour market participation varies considerably between individual ethnic groups and within the broad ethnic group categories.

  • Other White had the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups (77%). The Other White group is the second largest ethnic group (after White British) containing 4.4% of the overall population and includes numerous groups such as Western Europeans and Polish.

  • Other Black and White and Black Caribbean had the highest proportions of aged 16 – 64 who were unemployed at 14%.

  • Gypsy or Irish Travellers and Arabs were most likely to be economically inactive (both 50%). Tick boxes for these groups were new to the 2011 Census. There were 58,000 Gypsy or Irish Travellers (0.1% of the population) making it the smallest ethnic category (with a tick box) in 2011. Previous analysis on the characteristics of Gypsy or Irish Travellers, found this group had the worst labour market outcomes of all ethnic groups. The Arab ethnic group accounted for 240,000 people (0.4% of the population).

Note that economic activity is presented in this analysis as a proportion of the 16 to 64 population in order to show how the population aged 16-64 is distributed across the different types of economic activity (employed, unemployed and economically inactive).This is different from official labour market statistics definition of the ‘unemployment rate’ which is measured by dividing the number of unemployed people by the total number of people employed and unemployed who were aged 16 and over.

Variations across the English regions and Wales

Data is available in the regional reference tables by selected ethnic groups (40.5 Kb Excel sheet) to explore how labour market participation for selected groups varies across the English regions and Wales. The groups selected are those with the highest and lowest proportions of employment, inactivity and unemployment. Analysis of the data show:

  • White British and White Other had higher than average employment rates across all regions.

  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi had lower than average employment rates across all regions. In the West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber less than half of these groups were in employment.

  • Those groups with the highest proportion of the population aged 16-64 who were unemployed (White and Black Caribbean, Other Black and Black African) had higher than average proportions across all regions. The highest proportions for these groups was in the West Midlands where 18% of Other Black, 16% of White and Black Caribbean and 17% of Black African were unemployed.

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5. Differences in labour market participation by gender

This section looks at the differences in labour market participation between ethnic groups by gender. Interactive content is available to look at employment, unemployment and economic inactivity by gender.

Figures 3 and 4 show economic activity by ethnic groups for men and women respectively.

Employment

  • The Other White group had the highest proportion of Men (82%) and women (72%) who were in employment – well above the population average (75% and 67% respectively).

  • White British, White Irish and Indian men followed (76%) and White Irish women (70%).

  • Gypsy and Irish Traveller men (49%) and women (31%) and Arab men (50%) and women (29%) had the lowest rates of all ethnic groups who were in employment.

Unemployment

Overall the proportion population aged 16-64 who were unemployed was 7% for men and 5% for women in 2011.

  • Unemployment was highest among the Black and White and Caribbean ethnic groups for both men and women. Highest among men was Other Black (17%), White and Black Caribbean (16%) and Caribbean (15%). For women, the picture was similar with Black African (12%), White and Black Caribbean (11%) and Other Black (11%).

  • The men who were least likely to be unemployed were from the Chinese ethnic group (5%). For women it was White British and White Irish women (both 4%), followed by the Chinese ethnic group (5%).

Economic Inactivity

Overall, inactivity rates for women (28%) were much higher than that of men (18%) and this was the case across all ethnic groups.

  • Men from the Chinese (40%), Arab (40%) and Gypsy or Irish Traveller (39%) ethnic groups had more than double the average rate (18%).

  • For women, economic inactivity was highest amongst the Arab (64%) Bangladeshi (61%), Pakistani (60%) or Gypsy or Irish Travellers (60%) groups.

  • The least likely group to contain economically inactive men and women was Other White (13% and 23% respectively). For the Black Caribbean group, the proportion of economically inactive men was 20% and for women was 23%.

Figure 3: Economic activity for males (aged 16 - 64) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 3: Economic activity for males (aged 16 - 64) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics

Figure 4: Economic activity for females (aged 16 - 64) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 4: Economic activity for females (aged 16 - 64) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics

Reasons for economic inactivity

The reasons for economic inactivity can vary considerably between ethnic groups and between men and women. A number of factors contribute that can be both socio economic and cultural. They may also be influenced by the age distribution of the population which varies across ethnic groups.

The main reason for men being economically inactive in the 2011 Census was because they were a student (37%) or sick and disabled (27%), whereas the main reason for women was because they were looking after the family and home (31%).

According to the 2011 Census:

  • High proportions of ethnic minority men were economically inactive due to being a student which is consistent with the younger age profile of these groups. Chinese men (83%) and women (64%) were the most likely to be economically inactive due to being a student. This is consistent with recent analysis which found that relatively high proportion of Chinese born residents were students in the 2011 Census.

  • The main reason for Gypsy or Irish Traveller men (37%) for being economically inactive was because of being long term sick or disabled as highlighted in a recent ONS article.

  • Women who were Bangladeshi (54%), Pakistani (52%), Gypsy or Irish Traveller (45%) and Arab (39%) had the highest economic inactivity because of looking after the family or home.

  • Retirement is more dominant for White Irish and White British men and women than minority ethnic groups largely because of the older age profile of these groups. White Irish and White British had the highest median age of all ethnic groups in the 2011 Census, (53 and 42 years of age respectively).

Figure 5: Reasons why males (aged 16-64) were economically inactive by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 5: Reasons why males (aged 16-64) were economically inactive by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 6: Reasons why females (aged 16-64) were economically inactive by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 6: Reasons why females (aged 16-64) were economically inactive by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
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6. Characteristics of ethnic groups in employment

Occupation and industry

The 2011 Census collected information about the jobs people held both according to the type of work undertaken and the industry in which they worked. The information was classified by occupation and industry for those who were employed in the week before the census was completed. The analysis in this section is for the population aged 16 and over in employment.

Low skilled jobs

Occupation on the Census was derived from a person’s main job title and details of the activities involved in their job. There were nine major occupations but for the purpose of this analysis they have been split into low skilled and high skilled occupations1.

Overall, 37% of men in employment worked in low-skilled occupations in the 2011 Census. However, over half of the men who were of Pakistani (57%), Black African (54%) and Bangladeshi (53%) ethnicity worked in low skilled jobs. Men who were the least likely to work in low-skilled occupations were Chinese (24%), closely followed by White Irish (29%).

Overall, almost 6 in 10 (59%) women in employment worked in low skilled jobs in the 2011 Census. Women most likely to work in low skilled jobs were Gypsy or Irish Traveller (71%), Bangladeshi (67%) and White and Black Caribbean (66%). Like men, women least likely to work in low skilled jobs were Chinese (42%) and White Irish (45%).

Figure 7: Men and women in low skilled occupations by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 7: Men and women in low skilled occupations by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
Notes:
  1. 2011 Census table DC6213EW was used to produce Figure 7
  2. Percentage of all those in employment aged 16 and over
  3. Low skilled includes: Administrative and secretarial occupations; Caring leisure and other service occupations; Sales and customers service occupations; Process plant and machine operatives and elementary occupations
  4. High skilled includes: Managers, directors and senior officials; Professional occupations, Associate professional and technical occupations and skilled trades occupations

Type of industry

Industry data was derived from information provided on the main activity of a respondent’s employer or business. Certain ethnic groups were concentrated in particular industries. Table 2 and 3 show the industries that had the highest proportions of ethnic groups working in a particular industry. In particular it highlights that:

  • Men from the Asian/Asian British groups were highly concentrated across the ‘Accommodation and food service activities’ (for example working in restaurants and hotels) and ‘Whole sale and retail trade’ (for example, shops). Over a third of Bangladeshi men (36%) worked in the ‘Accommodation and food service industries.

  • Women from the Black ethnic minorities and Other Asian were highly concentrated within the ‘Human health and social work activities’. Black African women had nearly 4 in 10 (38%) working in this sector.

Self employment

ONS recently reported that in 2014 self employment was at its highest point in 40 years. The 2011 Census showed that of those in employment men (20%) were twice as likely to be self employed than women (10%).

Gypsy or Irish Traveller men (41%) and women (18%) were the most likely to be self-employed (41%) and both men and women had proportions twice above the average. Gypsy or Irish Traveller men worked in areas concentrated around the construction industry and the skilled trades occupations. Skilled and trades occupations was recently highlighted in another report as an industry that had the highest number of self employed workers.

Figure 8: Self employment for men and women by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 8: Self employment for men and women by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
Notes:
  1. 2011 Census table DC6201EW was used to produce Figure 8
  2. Percentage of all those in employment aged 16 or over

Hours worked

Overall around 16% of men in employment worked part-time in the 2011 Census. With the exception of White Irish and White Other, men in ethnic minority groups were more likely than average to work part-time. Over half (54%) of Bangladeshi men worked part-time and just over 1 in 8 worked 15 hours a week or less (12%).

Overall 44% of women in employment worked part-time (30 hours or less) in the 2011 Census. Bangladeshi (56%), Gypsy or Irish Traveller (54%) and Pakistani (52%) women were the most likely to work part-time. Bangladeshi and Pakistani women had the highest proportion working less than 15 hours a week (23% and 20% respectively).

Overall one in five (19%) men worked 49 hours or more with White Irish men the most likely (26%).

Figure 9: Hours worked for males by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 9: Hours worked for males by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
Notes:
  1. Percentage of all those in employment aged 16 and over
  2. The number of hours that a person aged 16 and over in employment in the week before the census, worked in their main job. This included paid and unpaid overtime

Figure 10: Hours worked for females by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 10: Hours worked for females by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
Notes:
  1. Percentage of all those in employment aged 16 and over
  2. The number of hours that a person aged 16 and over in employment in the week before the census, worked in their main job. This included paid and unpaid overtime

Notes for characteristics of ethnic groups in employment

  1. Low skilled includes: Administrative and secretarial occupations; Caring leisure and other service occupations; Sales and customers service occupations; Process plant and machine operatives and elementary occupations. High skilled includes: Managers, directors and senior officials; Professional occupations, Associate professional and technical occupations and skilled trades occupations
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7. Young people (aged 16 - 24) in the labour market

On Census day in 2011 there were over 6.6 million people young people (aged 16-24) in England and Wales. Nearly one in four (23%) were from an ethnic minority group1. Ethnic minorities in general tend to have a younger age profile compared with the older age structure of White British, reflecting past immigration and recent migration patterns. This section looks at young people in the labour market by ethnic group.

Figure 11 shows the labour market participation by ethnic group. For this analysis students are reported as a separate group in order to give a clearer picture of youth employment and unemployment and the groups that are particularly affected. Students here are defined as full-time students who were economically active or inactive and part-time students who were economically inactive. Therefore, the proportions in employment shown here understate total employment by excluding full-time students who were also in work (see background notes).

In the 2011 Census around half of all young people were students (48%). This is consistent with more recent ONS analysis using the LFS that found that the number of young people in full-time education has almost doubled over the last 30 years so the number of young people in the labour market has been falling.

The proportions of young people who were students varied across ethnic groups. Nearly 9 in 10 young people from the Chinese ethnic group (87%) were students2 and three-quarters of Arab young people (76%) in the 2011 Census. The lowest proportion of young people who were students was Gypsy and Irish Travellers at 30%.

White Other (43%) young people were the most likely to be in employment. Gypsy or Irish Travellers had the highest proportion of young people who were unemployed (14%) closely followed by White and Black Caribbean (13%) and Black Caribbean (12%). There has been evidence to show that Black people are at risk of disadvantage in the labour market.

At almost a third, Gypsy and Irish Travellers were also most likely to be inactive (and not a student) at 31%.

Figure 11: Labour market participation of young people (aged 16-24) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Figure 11: Labour market participation of young people (aged 16-24) by ethnic group, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Source: Census - Office for National Statistics
Notes:
  1. Includes full-time students who were economically active or inactive and part-time students who were economically inactive.

Notes for young people (aged 16 - 24) in the labour market

  1. Over three quarters of young people (77%) identified with White British with ethnic minorities making up the rest (23%).
  2. See recent analysis which found that high proportion of Chinese born residents were students in the 2011 Census.
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9 .Background notes

  1. The Census 2011 ethnic group question, England and Wales

    The England and Wales census questionnaire first asked the ethnic group question in 1991. The ethnic group question is a self defined question and people are free to choose the ethnic group that they feel that they belong to. There are five broad categories on the ethnic group question which was first asked in 1991. The number of tick-boxes within them has grown since from nine to eighteen in 2011 (as shown below).

    What is your ethnic group?

    The tick-boxes were designed to enable the majority of the population to identify themselves in a manageable way.

    Two new tick boxes were introduced in 2011 for:

    • Gypsy or Irish Travellers
    • Arabs

    It wasn’t possible to include a separate tick-box for all ethnic groups, therefore a tick-box with a write-in option for ‘Any Other’ background was provided within each of the five categories. This would ensure that minority groups were not excluded as they could write in their response. Some examples of what could be found within the written responses of the ‘Any Other’ ethnic groups could include:

    • Any Other White – Polish, Greek
    • Any Other Mixed – Black British and White Asian, White African and Black African
    • Any Other Asian – Korean, Japanese
    • Any Other Black – Black American, Black European
    • Any Other ethnic group– Polynesian, Melanesian
  2. Labour market definitions

    Economic activity - The economic status of usual residents aged 16 and over in England and Wales was derived from the census questions 30-38 and a full breakdown of all economic categories can be found in the data table TH2203EW.

    The economic activity status is based on the individual’s activity on census day whether or not a person was working or looking for work in the week before census. This includes individuals who may come to the UK to study and on completion of the study remain and be working in England and Wales on census day.

    Economically inactive – This applies if, in the week before the census they were not in employment but did not meet the criteria to be classified as “Unemployed". (This includes a person looking for work but not available to start work within two weeks, as well as anyone not looking for work, or unable to work).

    In contrast to ONS Labour Market employment analyses, analysis for young people reports fulltime students as a separate group in order to give a clearer picture of youth employment/unemployment and the groups that are particularly affected.

    Employed – A person is defined as employed (or in employment) if in the week before the census they carried out at least one hour's paid work, either as an employee or self-employed.

    Unemployed – A person classified as unemployed if they were not in employment and available to start work in the next two weeks, and either looked for work in the last four weeks or are waiting to start a new job.

    Hours worked – The number of hours that a person aged 16 and over in employment in the week before the census, worked in their main job. This included paid and unpaid overtime.

    Full details on the definitions and terms used in the Census in relation to the labour market can be found in the 2011 Census glossary of terms.

  3. Differences between the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and 2011 Census

    There are some differences in labour market indicators reported in the 2011 Census when compared with the LFS. A previous ONS publication discussed these differences and why they occur.

    The Census provides an accurate snapshot across a range of household characteristics at a detailed geographical level which is very useful for the analysis of population sub groups. The LFS is the main source of aggregate labour market statistics in the UK as it is focused primarily on labour market issues and is designed to elicit responses in line with internationally agreed definitions for economic activity. However, it is subject to sampling variability due to small sample sizes and this can make it difficult to draw conclusions in particular when looking at small ethnic minority populations.

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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Contact details for this Article

Angela Potter-Collins
angela.potter-collins@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455281