British values in Unequal Britain: inequalities faced by South Asians in the UK

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Prompted by the Trojan Horse affair, the Prime Minister David Cameron wrote that British values are “not optional; they’re the core of what it is to live in Britain”. The debate on British values, is not new, however, it focuses on minority communities, their identity and loyalties particularly those whose behaviours or attitudes are deemed unBritish.

This debate needs to be shifted away from problematising ethnic minority groups and questioning if they encompass British values, to how British society can ensure ethnic minorities can enjoy the same opportunities, as their White counterparts. By removing structural barriers they face and improving their lived experiences, opportunities and outcomes.

It is 2014 and yet if you are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, in the UK, you are still most likely to suffer high levels of inequality, compared to your White counterparts and some other ethnic minority groups. Across all spheres of life, ethnic inequalities exist and individuals of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins are faring poorly. In areas of life such as employment, education, health, socioeconomic status and upward social mobility.

Understanding how social inequalities affect the experiences and outcomes of South Asians is complex. What particularly stands out, is just how disparate the rates of unemployment, poverty and social mobility are for Pakistani/Bangladeshi people compared to White people and other ethnic groups such as Indian or Chinese – who tend to fare better.

Sociologist Professor James Nazroo asserts that ethnic inequalities – and the prejudice, discrimination and racism that underlie them – have persisted to some significant degree. Census data shows that White men and women have maintained a consistent advantage over the past 20 years compared with men and women in almost all other ethnic groups.

If we examine unemployment, the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CODE), found that people of Pakistani/Bangladeshi origins, particularly men, had much higher unemployment rates in the last three decades. During recessions, they would be hit the hardest and are still nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

Researchers at CODE also found that improving education amongst ethnic minorities did not lead to more job opportunities or upward social mobility. Notably surveys of highly qualified young British Muslim women highlighted employer discrimination for those who wear the hijab and niqab.

It is clear that the unequal experiences and outcomes faced by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis need to be addressed as soon as possible. The current debate of British values contributes to the racialisation of ethnic minority identities, identifying identity as the problem, whilst simultaneously ignoring and aggravating the underlying ethnic inequalities.

This was a short comment piece on inequalities within the South Asian communities, in the UK, which featured in Asians UK magazine. 

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