Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Ethnic minority unemployment 70% higher than white joblessness for past 20 years

Exclusive: Union calls on government to ‘address structural and systematic racism’ in workplace

Nadine White
Wednesday 03 November 2021 10:20 GMT

A stark disparity in unemployment rates between workers from ethnic minorities and their white counterparts has persisted in the UK for decades, according to new research.

Unemployment among black, Asian and ethnic minority groups has been at least 70 per cent higher than for white workers in each of the last 20 years, analysis of Office of National Statistics (ONS) data by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has found.

The TUC, which launched its anti-racism task force in September 2020, is urging the government to ramp up its commitment to ending institutional racism in the UK labour market.

Dr Patrick Roach, chair of the TUC anti-racism task force, said: “Where black workers are concerned, we have to stop history being repeated by addressing the already well-known structural factors including casualisation, zero-hours contracts, a lack of regulation and outsourcing, that are resulting in black workers suffering low pay, inferior working conditions and higher levels of job insecurity.

“During the pandemic, black workers have been increasingly more likely to lose their jobs than their white counterparts and are more likely to lose their lives as a result of Covid-19. This is the impact of the continued failure to address structural and systematic racism.

“The government must stop failing in its duty to eradicate the prejudice, discrimination and inequality that continue to deny many black workers the opportunity to secure decent jobs and to be treated fairly at work.”

He added: “The Anti-Racism Taskforce is setting out a positive and progressive agenda that will secure the practical changes needed that will benefit all workers.”

The union is calling on government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, make employers publish action plans to ensure fair wages for ethnic minority workers in the workplace and publish all the equality impact assessments related to its response to the pandemic, adding greater transparency about how it considers marginalised communities in policy decisions. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (PA)

This comes after chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to respond to calls to address structural inequalities in last week’s Budget.

Labour MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Zarah Sultana, and Apsana Begum wrote to Mr Sunak, in a letter seen by The Independent, calling for help to be rolled out to communities that most need it.

Black and minority workers have been 26 times worse hit by the employment crisis sparked by Covid-19 in the last year, a January study from the TUC found.

The unemployment rate for black and minority ethnic workers rose at three times the speed of the rate for white workers between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

Responding to the TUC’s latest findings, general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Twenty years on from the Macpherson report it is disappointing to see such little progress has been made.

“BME workers are far more likely than white workers to be turned down for jobs, pay rises and promotions. And they are more likely to be in low-paid, insecure jobs, with fewer rights at work.

“Ministers must tackle the structural racism that exists within our economy – and wider society – once and for all.”

The Government was been approached for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in