Long read: It is time government implemented a coherent race-equality strategy as structural inequalities continue to impact Muslim communities 

A number of reports have been produced in recent times which either directly or indirectly evidence significant barriers and structural inequalities Muslim people face in Britain today.

  • The Social Mobility Commission concluded young Muslims living in the UK are being held back from reaching their full potential at every stage of their lives
  • Labour MP David Lammy’s review into the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system highlighted the extent to which Muslims are disproportionately represented in prison, with the Muslim prison population increasing by almost 50% over the last decade
  • The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, despite centring its analysis on anti-Semitism, found that Muslims are viewed least favourably compared to other religious groups in Great Britain with justification for violence towards Muslims being significantly higher than any other religious group – second only to justification of violence towards Islamist extremists
  • Most recently, a YouGov Survey showed that 55% of voters regard it as right for the police to use racial profiling against Arabs or Muslims for security reasons and 64% believe Arabs have failed to integrate despite 81% of respondents saying they “know little or nothing” about the Arab world

It is true students from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds (often used as a proxy for Muslim communities) are more likely than ever to succeed in education and go on to university than other groups – particularly girls. This is testament to the resilience and high aspiration within Muslim communities.

However, education success does not translate into labour market success. Only 6% of Muslims are in higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations compared to 10% of the population (Social Mobility Commission, 2017). Moreover, Muslims experience the greatest economic disadvantages of any faith group in UK society with 50% of Muslim households considered to be in poverty compared with less than 20% in the overall population (CSI, 2015).

The evidence outlining the negative impact of structural inequalities is unequivocal. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility, civic action and integration.

After all, the Muslim population is the most ethnically diverse religious group in the UK. It is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural demographic, relatively much younger than other communities and are more likely than most to identify as British. There is huge potential for young Muslims to become global leaders serving Britain and British interests. Mo Farah and Sadiq Khan serve as just some examples. But the facts show that Muslim communities experience significant barriers, meaning structural inequalities are persisting in place of springboards to success.

To date, consecutive governments following the 2010 election have failed to implement winning strategies tackling the enduring inequality of opportunity that persist on the basis of race and religion.

Baroness McGregor-Smith’s report on BAME progression within the labour market, and Sir John Parker’s review into the diversity (or lack of) of corporate boards are much welcomed, as are plans requiring universities to routinely publish admissions and retention data by gender, socio-economic group and ethnic background (BIS, 2015).

Yet where action is taking place, it is predominantly limited to government reports and recommendations and not a clear, coherent strategy targeted towards overcoming racialised discrimination.

What is more, among some government departments, reports are not even being produced as government persists with its “colour-blind” policy approach. The Government Equalities Office (GEO), for example, has failed to produce a single report on race equality for over five years despite increasing levels of anti-immigrant sentiment (YouGove, 2015) and record-breaking reports of anti-Muslim hate crime, while other reports are being controversially delayed.

Racialised discrimination is a deeply complex issue and no one policy recommendation will solve the multitude of issues that exist.

However, it is time government adopts a considered strategy with tangible goals and clear action points in place.

Here we make three key recommendations serving as a starting point:

  1. We welcome the Government Equalities Office gender pay gap reporting scheme, requiring 9,000 employers to publish their gender pay gap. We encourage the GEO to go one step further and break down pay by ethnicity as well. Large and medium sized businesses, statutory bodies and charities should:

    a) Publish the organisations median ethnic pay gap figures

    b) Publish the organisations mean ethnic pay gap figures

    c) Publish peoples ethnicities in each quartile of the pay structure to show the spread of earners by ethnicity across an organisation, helping to show employers where ethnic minorities progress might be stalling so they can take action to support their career development

    d) Publish pay gaps by ethnicity for any bonuses paid out during the year

  2. The DCLG and the GEO should formulate an official cross-departmental Race Equality Unit specifically responsible for race equality policymaking and analysis. At present, lines of accountability are blurred and public information on cross-departmental co-operation is inaccessible. We recommend the Race Equality Unit focuses on key-target areas including criminal justice, education, employment, health and wellbeing, housing and active citizenship
  3. We recommend the Government works with businesses and civil society organisations to help build individual capital and social networks through national mentoring projects, targeted networking events and “fast stream” internship initiatives for young Muslims and other people from lower socio-economic backgrounds

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