Poverty, inequality, employment and health

The Institute of Race Relations,

These statistics have been collated from a variety of different sources, which have differing ways of categorising and describing ‘race’ and ethnicity. (For example, some sources differentiate between particular black ‘groups’ whilst others do not. Some sources may just use the term Asian, others may differentiate between different Asian groups or different religious groups.) Where we have used other organisations’ statistics, we have followed the categorisation/names used by them – which means that there may be inconsistencies in terminology within and between pages.


Throughout the UK, people from BME groups are much more likely to be in poverty (with an income of less than 60 per cent of the median household income) than white British people.

In 2010, nearly three-quarters of 7-year-old Pakistani and Bangladeshi children and just over half of those black children of the same age were living in poverty.  About one in four white 7-year-olds were classed as living in poverty.[1]

In 2009, the Wealth and Assets Survey revealed that the ‘average white household’ had roughly £221,000 in assets, black Caribbean households had about £76,000, Bangladeshi households £21,000 and black African households £15,000.[2]

BME groups are also more likely to experience homelessness. In Wolverhampton, for example, in 2011, 26 per cent of the population were from a BME community, but these same communities made up about 40 per cent of the homeless cases seen by the local authority.[3]


In June 2012, 7.3 per cent of White people, 15.5 per cent of Black (African or Caribbean) people and 17.3 per cent of people with mixed ethnicity, of working age (16-64), were unemployed.[4]

In October 2012, 23 per cent of black males aged 16-24 were unemployed ; 13 per cent of white males in the same age group were unemployed.[5]

Percentage of 16-24 year olds unemployed by gender and ethnicity, 2002-2012

2002 2008 2010 2012
All White 8 8 12 13
Asian or Asian British 8 12 13 15
Black or Black British 13 16 19 21
Male White 10 10 15 16
Asian or Asian British 10 16 15 16
Black or Black British 14 22 21 26
Female White 6 7 9 10
Asian or Asian British 6 9 11 13
Black or Black British 11 10 16 17

In 2011, about one in four black Caribbean and Bangladeshi households did not have a family member in employment. This figure was slightly less for black African and Pakistani households. Of white British households, roughly 15 per cent did not have a family member in employment.[6]

In London, BME communities are less likely than white people to be paid the living wage (£8.55).

Proportion of employees earning less than the London Living Wage[7]


BME groups as a whole are more likely to report ill health, and experience ill health earlier than white British people. Some health variations are linked to poverty and wider social inequalities, although there are a range of inter-linked and overlapping factors.[8]

In 2012, a report by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) noted that Gypsies and Travellers have a life expectancy that is 10-12 years less than the settled population. Of a sample of 260 Gypsies and Travellers, 38 per cent had a long-term illness, compared with 26 per cent of age and sex matched comparators.[9]

The London Health Inequalities Strategy, published in 2009, noted that Bangladeshi and Pakistani Londoners were more likely to report their health as ‘not good’ than other groups.[10]

In 2009, the Department for Communities and Local Government highlighted that the prevalence of certain illnesses and conditions, including long-term illness, asthma and bronchitis, are ‘significant’ for Gypsy and Traveller adults.[11]

A survey of 63 refused asylum seekers, in 2010, revealed that 51 per cent of the respondents reported that their physical health had worsened since they had arrived in the UK. Health conditions included respiratory problems, gastric ulcers and muscular pains.[12]

Access to healthcare

Health inequalities are further linked to unequal access to healthcare. Some BME groups face considerable barriers to healthcare.

In 2009, the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that Gypsies and Travellers faced particular difficulties accessing healthcare. Many felt that health workers and doctors misunderstood their needs and circumstances.

The West Midlands Strategic Health Partnership noted, in 2010, that migrant populations faced significant barriers accessing healthcare including difficulties that were related to contracting and commissioning processes and a lack of knowledge about services available.[13]

Mental health

A disproportionate number of people admitted as inpatients in mental health services come from BME groups. In 2010, 23 per cent of inpatient admissions were from a BME background. According to the mental health organisation ‘Mind’, the admission rate for ‘other black’ groups is six times higher than average, indicating discrimination within the mental health system.[14]

People from BME groups are more likely than white British people to be detained compulsorily under mental health legislation or put in seclusion. Research in 2013 indicated that black people detained under mental health legislation are 29 per cent more likely to be forcibly restrained than white patients. They are 50 per cent more likely to be placed in seclusion and more likely to be labelled as psychotic.[15]

According to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), BME groups are disproportionately treated with Compulsory Treatment Orders (CTOs). In 2011/12, the proportion of people given CPOs that were from black or black British communities (15 per cent) was about five times higher than the proportion of  people from those communities in the general population.[16]

For more information see:

The Poverty Site

The London Health Observatory

The Afiya Trust

Black Mental Health UK

References: [1] ‘Three in Four Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in UK living in poverty at age 7’, Institute of Education (London, Institute of Education, 2010). [2] Omar Khan, ‘The racial wealth gap: not just an American problem’, Reuters (8 April 2011). [3] ‘Homelessness Strategy 2011 – 2014’, Wolverhampton City Council (Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton City Council, 2011), p. 14. [4] Karl Murray, London: race equality in employment, London, Trust for London, 2012). [5] TUC, ‘Young black men have experienced sharpest unemployment rise since 2010’, TUC (16 October 2012). [6] ‘Work and ethnicity’, The Poverty Site (Accessed 11 November 2011). [7] ‘Employees in London in low paid work by ethnicity’, Trust for London and the New Policy Institute (London, Trust for London and the New Policy Institute, 2012). [8] Ethnicity and health (London, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2007), p. 1. [9] Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, The health and wellbeing of Gypsies and Travellers (London, ITMB, 2012). [10] Greater London Authority, The London Health Inequalities Strategy: draft for public consultation (London, Greater London authority, 2009). [11] Department for Communities and Local Government, Progress report on Gypsy and Traveller policy (London, Department for Communities and Local Government, 2009). [12] Laurie Ray, Refused sanctuary then deprived of their health (Leeds, Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, 2010). [13] West Midlands Strategic Health Partnership, The migrant health agenda in the West Midlands: results of a local scoping exercise (West Midlands Strategic Health Partnership, Wolverhampton, 2010). [14] ‘Final Count-me-in census shows sustained discrimination in mental health’, Mind (6 April 2011). [15] Matilda, Macattram, ‘This lays bare the problems faced by detained black men’, Independent (19 February 2013). [16] African Health Policy Network, ‘Black people continue to be over-represented in detentions under the Mental Health Act’, African Health Policy Network (30 January 2013).