In Britain, an Idea to Reduce Racial Inequality Gains Momentum

That said, there are additional challenges to reporting on ethnicity that are distinct from gender reporting. The thorniest issue is privacy. Employers have to get their staff to voluntarily disclose their ethnicity. There will also be companies that lack enough diversity to publish a nuanced breakdown of the data, or publish any data at all, without jeopardizing staff anonymity. (The government offers 18 different classifications of ethnic groups for census data in England and Wales.) And the severity of inequality and underrepresentation can really vary by region. Ethnic minorities make up just 14 percent of Britain’s total population but in London, 40 percent of people identify as having an Asian, Black, Arab, or multiple ethnic backgrounds.

In response to the online petition on ethnicity pay gap reporting, the government said it had done voluntary testing of the methodology in 2019 with a range of businesses, which highlighted “the genuine difficulties” in designing a policy that provides accurate information and protects anonymity.

One way to get around some of these difficulties has been demonstrated by Deloitte, the auditing and financial advisory firm that is one of a handful of companies in Britain that have voluntarily published their own data.

Deloitte offers a single pay gap, showing the difference in pay between whites and all others. The latest report found that the median pay for the group it identified as Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in 2018 was 7.9 percent less than whites, compared with a 6.9 percent gap the year before. The gap for bonuses narrowed, to 25 percent from 30 percent in 2017. This report was made public, but internally more granular data was studied to help make decisions, said Clare Rowe, Deloitte U.K.’s head of inclusion.

A more detailed analysis is needed because a binary pay gap figure, modeled on how gender pay gap reporting is done, can conceal disparities between different ethnic groups. For example, according to a government survey, average hourly pay in Britain in 2018 was 11.82 pounds ($15.53). For white British people it was £11.90 and higher than that for people who are Indian. But Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people received pay that was below the national average.

Business in the Community, a charity focused on responsible business practices, has been pushing for the government to require ethnicity pay gap reporting since 2018, when a study it did found that just 11 percent of people in Britain said their employer was collecting ethnicity pay data, and only half of those were then making it public.

Reporting this data “alone can’t fix everything, but it does ensure that this conversation remains at the top table and that there are actions to follow through on that,” said Sandra Kerr, the charity’s race equality director. “Because looking at the data you can’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s really terrible.’ You then have to act and say what you are going to do.”

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