UK govt data highlights ‘uncomfortable truths’ for Pakistanis

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By Muna Habib

LONDON: People of different colours and ethnicities face increased disadvantages in the British society, stated a British Cabinet Disparity Report on Saturday.

The report aims to highlight how people from various ethnic backgrounds in the UK compare across healthcare, employment, education and the criminal justice system.

Sources close to the British Cabinet Office said: “Other communities have integrated very well, but the audit shows that Pakistani women who don’t speak English or go out to work are living in an entirely different society and are shockingly badly integrated.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the race disparity audit in August 2016. “The audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices.”

The report drew a correlation between poverty and ethnicity and showed that nearly a fifth of Asian people live under persistent poverty compared to white British people in the same category. ‘Persistent poverty’ is determined when the household income for an acceptable standard of living is not met for the current year and two of the previous three years.

The report also revealed educational achievements within Asian groups: attainment levels are higher amongst Indian pupils who are more likely to meet the expected standards for their age group and make progress within targets set by the UK education board compared to Pakistani pupils. For example, 65% of Indian pupils met the expected standards for reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 compared to only 47% of Pakistani pupils. Key stage 2 or KS2 is the official term for the four years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales when students are aged between 7 and 11.

The number of Pakistanis residing in the most deprived areas of the UK is disproportionally high.

Pakistani’s comprise approximately 31% of the population. A sizeable portion is living in deprived neighbourhoods that are usually disadvantaged across multiple areas of life; including unemployment, low income and education. Furthermore, Indian, White British, Chinese and other White ethnic groups are not living disproportionately in these neighbourhoods.

The audit has received backlash from activists, including former London Deputy Mayor Munira Mirz. In an open letter to The Times, London, she wrote the government’s approach was “crude and tendentious” that may “harm the very communities they are aspiring to help”.

However, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid rejected the criticisms and said: “Although the data would not provide the answers to why the disparity existed, the government wants to work with outside groups to come up with better ways that can tackle the injustice.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani or Bangladeshi women who don’t speak proper English or hardly speak it at all. That might be through choice in some cases, a cultural issue. However, it is a big issue because it does then hold those women back from the employment market and other opportunities,” he said.