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Having targets requires having the right targets

Summary:
We are told that Black Britons makeup only 1.5% of those in the top positions of power. We are further told that this is disgraceful and something must be done. We might start doing something by beginning to count properly.UK employers have been told to take “urgent action” to support workers from ethnic minorities, after a survey found the number of black professionals in leadership roles has barely moved since 2014. Business in the Community, the group founded by the Prince of Wales to support responsible business, said black people held just 1.5% of the 3.7m leadership positions across the UK’s public and private sectors in 2019, compared with 1.4% in 2014.We tend to prefer - not insist upon, just prefer - the French habit here. They refuse, adamantly, to count the ethnicity of the

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We are told that Black Britons makeup only 1.5% of those in the top positions of power. We are further told that this is disgraceful and something must be done. We might start doing something by beginning to count properly.

UK employers have been told to take “urgent action” to support workers from ethnic minorities, after a survey found the number of black professionals in leadership roles has barely moved since 2014.

Business in the Community, the group founded by the Prince of Wales to support responsible business, said black people held just 1.5% of the 3.7m leadership positions across the UK’s public and private sectors in 2019, compared with 1.4% in 2014.

We tend to prefer - not insist upon, just prefer - the French habit here. They refuse, adamantly, to count the ethnicity of the population at all. To be a French citizen is to be a French citizen and that’s all there is to it. On the grounds that it is being a citizen of France that confers the rights and privileges so that’s all that should be counted. In our case a sort of Britannicus ergo sum.

This is terribly out of step with our times of course so we should progress to the current demands. The point being, and one we’ve made before, that measuring against the total population is not the correct comparator. For it should not be a surprise that those leadership positions are rather hogged by those in a certain age group. Despite certain election manifestos we do not install teenagers to political power for example. Nor, again despite certain behavioural evidence, are companies run by toddlers.

The claim is that the Black British population is some 3.3% of us all therefore that should be the percentage in those positions of power. This is not so. For that black population trends considerably younger than the population as a whole. As ONS points out here and here. The Black African portion of the population is now larger than the Afro Caribbean too:

1.9 million people (3.3%) were from Black ethnic groups, with just under 1 million of those identifying with the Black African ethnic group (1.8%), and 0.6 million with the Black Caribbean ethnic group (1.1%)

And:

the percentage of the population from a Black African background doubled from 0.9% in 2001 to 1.8% in 2011

And:

the Black African group had a younger age profile than the Black Caribbean group, partly due to different immigration patterns – the first large wave of immigrants from the Caribbean was in the 1950s and 1960s, and most of their children were aged 40 to 55 years at the 2011 Census (accounting for nearly 30% of this ethnic group); the more recent immigration of Black Africans explains why 29% of people in this ethnic group were aged 25 to 39 years at the Census

We are indeed of the view that the initial claim about targets is wrong in and of itself. But even putting that aside if we are to have targets then they do need to be based on a certain acceptance of reality. The younger among us are not currently in positions of power and authority in our society? That’s a rather feather and fall over finding, isn’t it?

Any and every measurement of the population that does not take into account age cohorts and demographics is going to be wrong. Therefore, if we are to measure these things we’d better start taking account of age cohorts, hadn’t we?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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