Children of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin in Britain have outperformed other ethnic groups to achieve rapid improvements at every level of education, but are significantly less likely to be employed in managerial or professional jobs than their white counterparts, according to a study.
A report to be published on Wednesday by the government’s Social Mobility Commission says the trend is being driven in part by workplace discrimination, particularly against Muslim women.
The commission’s chair, Alan Milburn, said the findings showed that Britain was a long way from offering a level playing field to non-white groups, and called for urgent action to break down barriers.
“The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. This research suggests that promise is being broken for too many people in our society,” Milburn said. He argued that it was striking that people who were making the greatest advances at school were still missing out in the workplace.
The wide-ranging study, commissioned by Milburn’s group and carried out by academics from LKMco and Education Datalab, also offers stark warnings for a number of other ethnic and social groups, including the white working classes.
It found that the gap between the performance of pupils from the poorest and better-off households was widest for white British families.
Minority ethnic pupils are outperforming white working class children in English tests throughout school, with white British teenagers coming bottom of the pile in the subject at GCSE level.
Moreover, just one in 10 of the cohort go on to university compared with three in 10 for black Caribbean, five in 10 for Bangladeshi, and nearly seven in 10 for Chinese children from similar economic backgrounds.
The researchers suggest family behaviour as one factor in explaining the trend, citing evidence that white working class parents – alongside Roma, Gypsy and Traveller groups – “tend to be less engaged in their children’s education than other ethnic groups”.
There is also a warning for black families, with evidence that although children enter school achieving at an average level, they slip behind to be the worst performers at maths GCSE, the most likely to be excluded, and the least likely to achieve a good degree.