The ethnic groups in the UK that have been worst hit by coronavirus are also the lowest paid, new analysis shows.
Labour said its research showed that the government must take “urgent” action to address “structural racism” and protect Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people from the worst economic and health impacts of the pandemic.
The analysis, shared with HuffPost UK, showed Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are most likely to die from Covid, and women from these ethnic groups are worse affected by the disease than other women, too.
The hourly pay rates for these groups are also the four lowest in the UK, the analysis of official statistics showed.
Shadow equalities minister Marsha de Cordova said the figures showed the government was “failing miserably” to address the unequal impact of Covid, arguing that ministers are in “denial” of structural racism.
She called for the introduction of a legal requirement for employers to publish virus risk assessments.
Ministers should also introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting to help address low pay, career progression and diversity at work, she said.
And a comprehensive vaccine engagement strategy should be introduced to ensure BAME groups are not “left behind” as the country looks to come through the worst of the pandemic.
The vaccine plan must address “long-standing mistrust” and “the impact of structural racism”, the party said, amid suggestions that take-up is lower among some ethnic groups.
This continued denial of structural racism and inaction is completely unacceptable
De Cordova said: “One year on from the UK’s first case, the government is still failing miserably to address the unequal impact of Covid-19, which continues to expose deep-rooted structural racism in our society with devastating effects.
“This continued denial of structural racism and inaction is completely unacceptable.
“We need urgent and radical action to protect Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities from the worst economic and health impacts of the pandemic.”
Labour analysed figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed people with Pakistani ethnicity had the lowest median gross hourly pay in 2019, at £10.55.
People with Bangladeshi ethnicity had the second lowest (£10.58) while Black people had the fourth lowest (£11.63).
At the same time, Black African men suffered the highest Covid death rate of any ethnicity, followed by Bangladeshi men, Black Caribbean men and Pakistani men.
Female death rates were highest among women of Black Caribbean, Pakistani, Black African and Bangladeshi ethnicities.
Responding, Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton insisted the government is “not in denial” about race issues in the UK.
She went on: “To such an extent that we have a commission, that’s looking at these issues in depth, and it will report in the coming months so you will very shortly see from us are considered piece of work by experts in their field looking at where the issues are.”
Asked whether the government would introduce mandatory pay gap reporting, Stratton said: “I think that it would be wrong for me to pre-empt a serious body of work...the inquiry that’s going on right now.
She said there was also a “particular problem” with how Covid has hit BAME communities but that the government had addressed it “in depth and at length”.
“You’ve also seen us put money into communicating as best as we can with those communities in community radio or the television they watch, newspapers they read,” Stratton said.
“So really trying to be sensitive and get closer to non-white communities to help them get their employers and their workplace Covid-secure, and then also to encourage them to get vaccinated.”
A government spokesperson added: ”There is clear evidence Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted certain groups and we are doing everything we can to protect and minimise the risk to the most vulnerable individuals and communities.
“Vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives. We want every eligible person to benefit from a free vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.
“We know that some communities are more hesitant about a vaccine, for a range of reasons, which is why the government and the NHS are working closely with Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities to support those who have questions.
“As part of this we’re working with faith and community leaders to give them advice and information about the benefits of vaccination and how their communities can get a jab.”