Date01 August 1978
Published date01 August 1978
Racial disadvantage in employment can take two basic forms. One is the con-
centration of racially distinct workers into low-paying or otherwise undesirable
occupations, the other is the payment of low wages within each occupation to such
workers. This paper examines the relative importance of the former, which we
have called occupational crowding. We have used unpublished data from the 1971
Census, which enabled us to look at different racial groups in some detail. We ana-
lyse the extent and nature of crowding, its causes, and how far it accounts for any
earnings disadvantage suffered by minorities.
Such an investigation has implications at several levels. First, racial disadvan-
tage may be associated with the colour of particular groups, and our data enable us
to discern this. Second, it is important for the policy-maker, faced with concern
about racial disadvantage, to know exactly what form it takes and what its causes
are. If it is based on discrimination against racial groups (whether black or white),
then there are already a wide range of theories of discrimination available. To give
these the degree of precision required for operational work, some prior knowledge
is needed of the nature of the disadvantage.
It is necessary at the outset to define what is meant by a racially distinct group.
Persons of a different colour from that of the indigenous population are obviously
distinct. These will include Asians (from, for example, Hong Kong or Malaysia),
Africans, African Asians, West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis. These groups
originate almost entirely from the New Commonwealth countries.' Other distinct
groups might include Europeans distinct by virtue of language difficulties, and
even the Irish, distinct by virtue neither of language nor culture nor colour, but
simply because they are a large enough group to be seen as distinct by the indig-
enous population.
There is a problem in identifying members of these groups. This is because the
Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) classifies people according to
their country of birth. A member of the racially distinct group of Indians, for
example, may have been born in India, elsewhere abroad, or in the U.K., but is
racially distinct because of his Indian parentage. Conversely a person born in
India may have white parents who were temporarily resident in India at the time of
his birth. A question about parentage was asked in the 1971 Census, and this has
allowed us to resolve most of these problems. But one insurmountable difficulty
remains. It is impossible to classify adequately persons born in Great Britain of
* We are grateful to the staff at the Office of Population, Censuses, and Surveys at Titch-.
field, Hants for their help in collecting the data, and to the Editors for their comments on earlier
drafts.All Commonwealth countries with the exception of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
parents from other countries. All the subsequent analysis will therefore be restric-
ted to immigrants.2 This does not involve an important omission in terms of the
1971 Census. Of the 523,000 males over 14 years of age3 who were resident in
Great Britain and who had one or both parents of New Commonwealth origin, only
73,000 (or 14 per cent) were born in this country. Over three-quarters of males of
New Commonwealth origin, who were born in this country, were still of school age
in 1971.
Nevertheless the limitation to a discussion of immigrant groups seriously com-
plicates the picture, since employment disadvantage may result simply from
immigrant status separately from any disadvantage suffered by the immigrant
because of his racial origin. In so far as disadvantage is the result of discrimination,
this again could be discrimination against immigrants per se rather than against any
racial groups. In the work reported here, therefore, we shall try to distinguish
between the two forms of disadvantage, although it will necessarily be incomplete
because of the lack of a comparable sample of workers born here, but belonging to a
racial minority. All we have been able to provide is a comparison with immi-
grants from the Old Commonwealth, who might be considered to be the same race
as the indigenous population. We analyse in detail the following groups: immi-
grants from New Commonwealth Africa, New Commonwealth America, New
Commonwealth Europe,4 India, Pakistan, the rest of the New Commonwealth,5
and Eire.
Having defined the groups we are examining, we return to the problem of the
nature of racial disadvantage in employment. This can take two basic forms: wage
differentials within occupations for workers of different races, and segregation into
particular occupations for these workers. We define the extent to which the latter
occurs as the degree of occupational crowding, and have measured it by the propor-
tion of any given group which is covered by the ten most common occupations.
What are the possible causes of such crowding?
It might be the result of an association between workers of low productivity
and occupations with low productivity and therefore low wages. Racially distinct
workers may have low productivity because of language difficulties, lack of educa-
tion, or the lack of skills suitable to an industrial society. This may also be the case
for immigrants. Alternatively, crowding may result from immigrant status itself:
information channels, aspirations and experience in the home country may induce
immigrants to apply for a particular kind of job both before and after they arrive
in Great Britain. If this is the case we would expect such effects to be reduced the
longer any particular group has been in the country. Finally, crowding may be the
result of discrimination against such workers. This might take a number of forms.
2These will include temporary as well as permanent immigrants.
The Census classification by age does not, unfortunately, make it possible to distinguish
precisely those above and below the school-leaving age.
Malta, Gozo and Gibraltar.
Ceylon, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and other countries in Asia and

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