Economic crisis could widen inequality - report

LONDON (Reuters) - About a quarter of Pakistani men in Britain are taxi drivers, and a black person in England or Wales is five times as likely as a white person to be in jail -- two findings in a new report on fairness published on Monday.

The report by Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that such inequalities could widen under Britain’s fragile economy. The government will on October 20 outline harsh spending cuts aimed at reducing a record budget deficit, and public sector services and jobs will be cut back.

“The current economic and social crises threaten to widen some equality gaps that might have closed in better times,” the commission said.

“The impact of multiple disadvantages in a more competitive labour market ... cannot be underestimated,” it added.

The body, which reports to parliament every three years and aims to reduce inequality, found that Britain was more diverse and more tolerant than in the past, but evidence showed that for some groups, progress was not going as fast as it should.

On Britain’s black population, the report said there was no greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prison in Britain than in the United States, and that “being black and male appears to have a greater impact on levels of numeracy than having a learning disability.”


The report also looked at differences between religious groups, and found that Muslims have the lowest rate of employment of any group, and that while a Muslim man was as likely to have a professional job as an “elementary” job, Jewish men were thirteen times more likely to have a professional post.

While white people fared favourably in most indicators, the commission found that Indian and Chinese people were the top performers on exams at age 16 and were twice as likely to be employed as professionals as white British people.

While women outperformed men educationally, they continued to earn less.

In schools, the report highlighted widespread homophobic abuse and a new trend of cyber-bullying.

On health, the commission said only 30 to 40 percent of men and women were of normal or healthy weight, and the report singled out Scotland as more prone than other parts of the UK to suicides among young men and deaths from cancer.

Although the number of ethnic minority lawmakers in parliament doubled in an election in May, they were still under-represented, the commission said. It added that people from ethnic minorities were more likely to say they were involved in local decision making and community groups.

Editing by Peter Graff