Britain more tolerant but minorities still struggle: study

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Tolerance in British society has progressed "light years" but ethnic minorities, women and poor people still face significant disadvantages, a landmark report found Monday.

It revealed that gender and ethnic pay gaps remain high, rich people still live longer than those on low incomes, and child mortality is far higher in some minority communities.

The study also showed that Chinese girls outperform every other ethnic group at aged 16, while poor white British boys are the lowest academic achievers at the same age.

"We are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission which compiled the report.

"But... we are still a country where our achievements haven't yet caught up with our aspirations."

He added: "For some, the gateways to opportunity appear permanently closed, no matter how hard they try; whilst others seems to have been issued with an access all areas' pass at birth."

Despite Britain's free-to-access National Health Service, the richest people can expect to live up to seven years longer than the poorest, and black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as Bangladeshi or white British babies.

At school, girls of all ethnicity outperform boys, with Chinese girls outranking every other group at age 16.

But full-time female workers earned on average 16.4 percent less than men in 2009 and the study said progress on closing the gap "appears to be grinding to a halt".

The ethnicity gap is even higher -- by the age of 22-24, 44 percent of black people are not in education, employment or training, compared to 25 percent of white people.

Pakistani, Bangladeshi, black African Christian and Chinese men earn anywhere between 11 percent and 21 percent less than the average, while only 47 percent of Muslim men are employed.

Five times more black people than white people are in jail.

Barriers also remain for those with disabilities -- only 50 percent of disabled adults are in work, compared to 79 percent of non-disabled adults.

The 700-page report is the first to be published under 2006 legislation which requires a review of equality be drawn up every three years.

© 2010 AFP

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