Black women are earning more than white women in Britain for the first time, official figures suggest.
On average, women who described their ethnicity as ‘Black Caribbean’ have taken home more pay in 2008 than their white counterparts. The pay gap grew to 6 per cent in the three months to October, when black women earned an average £462 per week—against £436 for white women.
It is a reversal on the figures for 2007, when white women earned over 7 per cent more than black women on average.
The trend emerged in an analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics, based on the authoritative Labour Force Survey.
But experts at the Equality and Human Rights Commission cautioned against ‘over-simplifying’, warning that black women were still under-represented compared with white women in the senior ranks of many professions despite recent strides.
A spokesman said the trend may be linked to working and residential patterns, explaining: ‘Black women are more likely to live in London, where wages are higher, and work in the public sector, where the pay gap for women generally is lower.’
In addition, it is thought financial pressures mean black women are less likely to switch to part-time work after having children, meaning they suffer less of a pay penalty when returning to work.
Meanwhile many work in health or social services where pay has been rising.
The pay trend follows other strides made by black women in recent years including the appointment of two to the Cabinet, including Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, and others to senior positions in the judiciary.
Colleen Harris, the first black press officer at Downing Street, told the Sunday Times, which published the analysis, 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 figures come at a time of growing concern over the under-achievement of white working-class youngsters, particularly boys.
They have worse GCSE results than almost any other group and are less likely to go to university.
Just 15 per cent of white working-class boys finished compulsory schooling last year having mastered the three Rs, gaining five good GCSEs including the core subjects of English and maths.
For black boys from similar backgrounds, the figure is 22 per cent while for Asians it is 29 per cent and Chinese 52 per cent.
Figures also show black Caribbean girls of any background doing better than their male counterparts.
Some 38.5 per cent achieved five good GCSEs including the three Rs last year, against 26.5 per cent of black Caribbean boys.