Ethnic minority workers in the UK earned on average 3.8% less than white workers last year, according to the first analysis of its kind by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
A report using analysis of annual population data revealed the median hourly pay for white employees was £12 in 2018, and £11.54 for ethnic minority groups.
However, there was a mixed picture when looking at different minorities.
It showed there has consistently been a gap between white and ethnic minority workers going back to 2012, when it was 5.3%.
The size of the gap has fluctuated, rising to as high as 8.4% in 2014, but the latest figure represents the smallest gap in the series and a narrower difference than in 2017 when it was 4.2%.
The ethnic group that had the lowest median hourly pay in 2018 was Bangladeshi, at £9.60, followed by Pakistani at £10.
For the category “black/African/Caribbean/black British” the figure was £10.92.
Those from Chinese, Indian and mixed/multiple ethnic groups had higher average earnings than white workers, at £15.75, £13.47 and £12.33 respectively.
But the ONS said the Chinese and Bangladeshi groups had a smaller sample size and so were more susceptible to volatility and inaccuracy.
Senior ONS analyst Hugh Strickland said: “Overall, employees from certain ethnic groups such as Indian and Chinese have higher average earnings than their White British counterparts.
“However, all other ethnic groups have average wages lower than for White British employees, with employees from the Bangladeshi ethnic group having the largest pay gap.
“However, once characteristics such as education and occupation are taken into account, the pay gap between White British and most other ethnic groups becomes narrower, though significant differences still remain.”
The analysis comes after a government report in 2017 set out plans to try to improve the prospects for those from ethnic minority backgrounds, after finding that equal participation and progress across ethnicities could be worth £24bn a year to the UK economy.
Last year, Theresa May announced a consultation on plans to force businesses to reveal their ethnicity pay gaps, in the same way that they are now obliged to do for gender.
Earlier this year, a group of employers including the Bank of England, Santander and fashion designer Stella McCartney voluntarily committed to report their ethnicity pay gaps.
Reacting to the ONS analysis, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The harsh reality is that even today race still plays a real role in determining pay.
“This problem isn’t going to disappear over time.
“Ministers must take bold action to confront inequality and racism in the labour market.
“The obvious first step is to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting without delay.”