Something interesting in the Sunday Times today.
The average earnings of black women in Britain are now higher than their white counterparts, according to government statistics.
In a landmark social development that suggests the erosion of a long-standing racial barrier, the figures show “black Caribbean” women earned on average £462 a week – 6% more than white women – in the three months to October this year.
That is a reversal of the previous year’s figures, when white women earned more than 7% above their black counterparts. The figures show that black women’s earnings overtook those of white women in the first three months of 2008 and the pay gap has increased gradually since then.
The data were gathered for The Sunday Times by the Office for National Statistics. They are based on the labour force survey, the most authoritative and up-to-date study of pay and conditions.
Yana Johnson, a cosmetics entrepreneur whose parents moved to Birmingham from Jamaica in the first wave of immigration after the second world war, said she was pleased by the findings. “[My parents were] part of the Windrush generation,” she said. “When that generation came over they had to work really, really hard and they sometimes felt they missed out on opportunities, so they were determined their daughters wouldn’t miss out.”
Colleen Harris, the first black press officer at Downing Street and founder of Dignity Management Consultancy, which advises on equality, said she was “ cynical about the figures”. But she added: “Black women do work very hard, and often they are the single earner in a household and have the whole weight of a family on their shoulders.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the figures may be explained by the fact that half of all black women live in London, where average pay is higher than elsewhere in the country.
It also said black women tended to take less time off work when having children, meaning they suffered less of a pay penalty when returning to work. Many work in health or social services where pay has been rising.
Black women have made other strides in recent years. There have been two black women in the cabinet in the past decade, including Baroness Scotland, the attorney general.
Last year 49.1% of black Caribbean pupils achieved five GCSEs from A* to C, compared with 44.4% the previous year. Girls do particularly well, with 56.2% gaining five good GCSEs. The underperformance of black boys, however, is still a concern, with just 41.5% achieving the best grades.
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