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'Buoyant' economy not benefitting black Britons

WHAT ABOUT US: Black people are not benefiting from upswing in employment

FRESH FIGURES have revealed that despite levels of unemployment falling nationally, the benefits are failing to reach Britain’s ethnic minority communities.

The statistics published by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) last week show that in the first half of this year, unemployment rates for white Britons dropped by 2.4 per cent but increased for ethnic minority people by 16.42 per cent.

It comes despite the prime minister’s pre-election pledge to implement measures to boost job creation.

Commenting on the data, race equality director at Business in the Community (BITC), Sandra Kerr, OBE, said: “Year on year unemployment rates for ethnic minority people have decreased at a much slower pace than for white people, whilst quarter on quarter unemployment rates have actually increased.”


The data is a confirmation that ethnic minorities are not benefiting from employment growth in the UK, despite it being well above the average of the G7 group of advanced economies and the Eurozone.

The bleak conditions of the labour market have involuntarily produced a rise in the number of Britain’s ethnic minorities forced to create their own streams of income.

Year on year self-employment rates for BAME (black and ethnic minority) people increased by 60.1 per cent, but decreased by 2.1 per cent for white people.

“There’s a correlation between not being able to get a job and starting your own business. If you can’t get a job then naturally one of the solutions to that is to be your own employer,” explained Nana Agyeman of Access UK, an organisation that works with young unemployed ethnic minorities.

He continued: “You can look at this from two perspectives, it’s bad in a sense that it is increasingly difficult to get a job through the normal channels, but it can be perceived as a positive that we are becoming less reliant or dependent on other people to employ us.”

Kerr said the growth in self-employment is an indication that there are more sinister practices at work in keeping ethnic minorities out of the traditional labour market.

“Employment must be accessible to all people regardless of ethnicity and I have great concerns that a wider economic recovery is not fully inclusive of our ethnic minority populations,” she warned.

The crisis of black youth unemployment has made headlines since the dire statistics released in March showed that the number of 16-24 year olds from BAME communities out of work for over a year had risen by 49 per cent.


Agyeman added: “BTEG [Black Training and Enterprise Group] did some great work on this last year and they found that the number one barrier to BAME people finding work is employer bias and discrimination. Black and ethnic minority people are looking for work every day and are ready and willing but it’s employers who hold the cards.”

The Access UK managing director said the level of institutionalised prejudices made the task of accessing work all the more difficult. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good your CV and how many qualifications you have, the employer you’re going to meet in the interview may have preconceived ideas about you, there is nothing you can do to change that,” he highlighted.

Kerr added: “These latest Labour Force stats show that whilst the economic picture is buoyant, this is not being experienced by ethnic minority populations. Even more worrying, it indicates that work is not necessarily paying for these individuals. We know from research by the TUC that there is a disproportionate amount of BAME people on zero-hours contracts and in low paid roles, which contributes to this concern.”

In his pre-election pledge, Prime Minister David Cameron laid out a clear agenda directed at black Brits, which included a pledge to create 20 per cent more jobs, and 20,000 start-up loans for new businesses by the year 2020.

But more than 100 days into the Conservative government’s reign, George Osborne’s budget has been criticised for widening inequality and having a disproportionate impact on black Britons.

Agyeman added: “A diverse workforce makes business sense; there is a benefit in employing a workforce that reflects your customer base.”

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