Otherwise, people's countries of origin were extremely diverse, encompassing 56 different countries, providing evidence of the ‘super diversity’ that has recently been identified as a defining feature of London’s migrant population (Vertovec, 2005).
With regards to ethnicity, the majority of respondents defined themselves as of Black Minority ethnic origin. Black Africans were the dominant ethnic group and accounted for over two-fifths of all workers (44%). White British workers made up only 8.5% of the sample, although there were other non-Irish white workers (20%), originating mainly in Eastern Europe. The remaining workers were spread across the ethnic spectrum and some 11% of workers chose the ‘other’ category, which included a variety of categories such as ‘Hispanic.’
People's occupations were clearly influenced by gender and ethnicity, with specific ethnic groups being over represented in certain sectors. Most noticeably, Black Africans made up over three-quarters of the surveyed workforce in cleaning on the London Underground. They also represented the largest share of all workers in care work (44%) and in cleaning and other services (37%). Non British Whites, in turn, comprised two-fifths of surveyed workers in hotel and hospitality, and one-fifth of workers in cleaning and other services.
The sample of respondents was almost equally divided between men (53%) and women (47%). However, men and women often did quite different jobs, or at least worked in different places. Women typically worked in ‘semi-private’ spaces: that is, in hotels (with 58.5% of hotel workers being women), and in the case of care work, the houses of clients (81.5% of workers). In contrast, men were more likely to work in ‘semi-public’ spaces - such as cleaning in offices (with 70% of workers being men) or on the Underground (64% of workers).
Generally, respondents were fairly well educated. As a result, many had experienced de-skilling and downward social mobility on entering the British labour market. One half of all the workers interviewed had attended primary or secondary school, and 49% had acquired tertiary level qualifications. Of the latter, half held vocational or professional qualifications and half had academic qualifications. The respondents often expressed their frustration that they were unable to secure jobs that utilised their skills and some had considered gaining British qualifications to improve their position in the labour market. Despite these aims, they also stressed the restrictions that made this very difficult for them to achieve. Over half of respondents were in their 30s or older. Only a very small proportion (one-fifth) were students at the time of interview.