UK could pocket an extra $29 billion a year by stamping out ethnic inequality: Report

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Britain's economy could soar by as much as £24 billion ($29.4 billion) a year if businesses eradicated ethnic inequality, according to a U.K. government-backed review published Tuesday.

"The time for talk on race in the workplace is over, it's time to act. No-one should feel unable to reach the top of any organization because of their race," Ruby McGregor-Smith, former chief executive of outsourcing company Mitie and leader of the independent review, said in a statement.

The report found people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds were frequently disadvantaged at work and called leading U.K. companies to reveal how ethnically diverse they are in each pay band.

No time for excuses

People from BME backgrounds were found to encounter fewer opportunities for career and pay progression than their white colleagues. BME employees were also more likely to work in lower-paid and lower-skilled jobs in spite of the fact it was more probable they had a degree.

The review found only 6 percent of people from BME backgrounds secured top level management positions while BME employment rates were 12 percent lower than their white counterparts.

"The consequences of continuing to do nothing will be damaging to the economy and to the aspirations of so many. So from the Cabinet table to the board rooms, there is no more time for excuses - just change," she added.

Only 74 FTSE 100 companies replied to McGregor-Smith's enquiries and less than 40 of those were able to compile meaningful information.

In August last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned failure to tackle deep-rooted race inequality would exacerbate divisions in society and found that ethnic minorities' life chances were "the most challenging for generations".

"As this review clearly shows, harnessing the very best of BME talent is the only way forward that makes sense for employers," Sandra Kerr, race equality director at BITC said in a statement.