The unemployment rate among black, Asian and minority ethnic workers (BME) is more than double that of their white counterparts, new figures show. The gap has widened significantly since the start of the pandemic with the unemployment rate for ethnic minority workers currently standing at 7.7 per cent compared to 3.5 per cent for white workers, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal.
Annual averages of the unemployment gap over the past 20 years show it is now the widest it has been since 2008, analysis by the Trades Union Congress has highlighted. The Bank of England has forecasted a recession in the UK as inflation will spiral to more than 10 per cent by October – the highest rate in 40 years.
Black households face being disproportionately impacted by the cost of living crisis with the majority of households having less than £1,500 in savings and being more likely to go hungry, The Independent recently revealed.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is calling on the government to “challenge” structural racism that is resulting in job inequality. “BME workers bore the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic – in every industry where jobs were lost to the impact of Covid, BME workers were more likely to have been made unemployed,” the union boss said.
“Now, BME workers are being held back in their search for work. The pandemic held up a mirror to discrimination in our labour market. As we start to build back, the time for excuses and delays is over. Ministers must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people at work.”
TUC analysis shows that the unemployment rate for black and Asian workers is now 1.9ppts (33 per cent) higher than it was pre-pandemic; for white workers, it’s 0.1ppts (2 per cent) higher.
As the nation continues to bounce back after the Covid-19 pandemic, these stark disparities show that the employment rate for ethnic minority workers is recovering at a slower rate than that of white workers. The TUC says the data shows ethnic minority workers, who were disproportionately impacted through the pandemic by Covid-related job losses, are now significantly more likely to be trapped in unemployment than their white counterparts.
It recently emerged that black, Asian and minority ethnic women are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men, prompting campaigners to demand that the government publish its long-delayed Employment Bill – purported to better protect workers’ rights – and to ban unstable types of working arrangements.
Plans to introduce the legislation have been dropped from this month’s Queen’s Speech, government officials confirmed last month, marking the second successive year it has been pushed back.
This time last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the nation, the unemployment rate for black and minority ethnic workers had risen at three times the speed of the unemployment rate for white workers. A report by the Public Affairs Committee in February revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions has been unable to explain this gross disparity.
Now campaigners are calling for an end to the structural discrimination and inequalities that hold minoritised groups back in the workplace. The TUC is calling on employers to work with trade unions to establish a comprehensive ethnic monitoring system, covering ethnicity pay-gap reporting, recruitment, promotion and a number of other procedures.
The union is also calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to work with trade unions to use its investigative powers and its newly established Race Discrimination Fund to address race discrimination in all labour market sectors.
Moreover, by introducing race equality requirements into public sector contracts for the supply of goods and services, the TUC said this would incentivise companies to improve their race equality policies and practices and minimise the use of zero-hours, temporary and agency contracts, and promote permanent employment.
The government and EHRC were approached for comment.