Windrush Generation at Work: 74 years on

Post author image. Sandra Kerr
Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community (BITC) highlights the Windrush generation’s legacy to the UK and the need for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting to address continuing inequalities.
Sandra Kerr smiles at the camera

On 22 June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in the UK with people from Jamaica and other British Commonwealth Caribbean islands. They had been invited to work in the UK to help rebuild its infrastructure and services following the devastating impact of the Second World War. People came to address the shortage of labour in manufacturing, health and transport services. This migration was to span a 20 year period where young people from the Commonwealth Caribbean islands arrived in the UK to work.

A recent analysis of UK employees from Caribbean backgrounds highlights the legacy of the initial migrants to the UK and their representation within certain industries.

New analysis into the legacy of the Windrush generation

Business in the Community (BITC) has been working with Professor Ian Thomson at the University of Birmingham and Professor Nelarine Cornelius of Queen Mary University on a longitudinal study and thematic analysis of the BITC’s 2015, 2018 and 2021 Race at Work surveys. The Race at Work Survey is produced in partnership with YouGov and is designed to find out what is happening in the UK’s workplaces. The rich and unique data sets, provide insight into the world of work for employees from every census demographic group in the UK by gender, sector, location, age and other intersectional factors.

Over seven decades from the arrival of the Windrush the Race at Work Survey data found that £22,500 is the most commonly reported gross income level of employees from a Caribbean background in the UK1. People from a Caribbean background represent 4% of employees in the UK2.

There is an overrepresentation of employees from a Caribbean background at administrative levels and an underrepresentation of employees from a Caribbean background at supervisor and senior and professional levels3. As importantly, we found a substantial pay gap of £980 for those at management level and £3814 for those at senior and professional levels, one of the highest disparities in pay found within the data sets4. We also found that employees from a Caribbean background are most likely to say that they are underpaid for what they do 55%5, which from this analysis we see is an accurate perception.

From the Race at Work 2021 data we also found 34% of employees from Caribbean backgrounds would like a mentor and only 14% have one6. Nearly three-quarters (72%) have diplomas, degrees, PhDs or Masters7. During the last 11 years, Black students have seen the biggest percentage point increase in postgraduate study, rising from 5.8 per cent of postgraduate entrants in 2010-11 to 8.2 per cent in 2020-21. The proportion of postgraduate entrants who were Asian also rose 2.3 percentage points, from 9.4 % 11.7 % over the same period8.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shared the household wealth assets for different ethnic groups in the UK9. A family from a Caribbean background in the UK are likely to have £85,000. Much of this would have accumulated from a zero balance when many of their parents and grandparents arrived in the UK 74 years ago. This is in contrast to a White British family with assets of £313,000.

To find out more about the findings of this new research download our Windrush Generation: employment and socioeconomic factors factsheet.

BITC members can also log in to MyBITC to access The Windrush Generation at Work in the UK: 74 years on briefing paper.

The importance of ethnicity pay gap reporting

I think that this insight amplifies that while voluntary ethnicity pay gap reporting is laudable, we need the government and business to get in step with the talent pool they want to attract and make this reporting mandatory. Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business released data from a YouGov survey they commissioned that found that 52% of 18-24-year-olds support ethnicity pay gap reporting in contrast to 36% of over 55s8.

As we live with the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, and as the war in Ukraine effects ripple through Europe and the rest of the world these challenges around low-income levels, wealth and assets are in sharp focus.

It is well documented in government data that severe economic shocks and recessions hit Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse groups, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, the hardest. The Government’s levelling up agenda must be inclusive and be about all people and places.

We need mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting to ensure that there is transparency of employee pay.

  1. Employers must examine the ethnicity pay gap, for all their employees, and examine their employees from a Caribbean background pay for disparities at management, professional and senior levels.
  2. Employers must implement mentoring and sponsorship opportunities and include their employees from a Caribbean background.
  3. Employers should be transparent about the pay range on job adverts, and as minimum, award employee pay within the advertised range.

Tackling the ethnicity pay gap will support the Windrush generation and their descendants, as well as other Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse groups. BITC’s Race at Work Charter contains seven commitments which will help you address this issue and improve equality of opportunity in your workplace.



  1. BITC Race at Work 2015, 2018 and 2021 longitudinal study and thematic review Professor Ian Thomson, University of Birmingham, and Professor Nelarine Cornelius, Queen Mary University 2022. To find out more download our Windrush Generation: Employment and socioeconomic factors factsheet.
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. Business in the Community (2021) Race At Work 2021: The Scorecard Report
  8. Office for Students (2022) Equality, diversity and student characteristics data, 7 June.
  9. Office for National Statistics (2020) Household wealth by ethnicity, Great Britain: April 2016 to March 2018, 23 November.
  10. Awaiting reference.