Coronavirus economic effects hitting ethnic minorities and young people hardest

‘Shocking’ findings prompt call for government to support communities providing disproportionate numbers of frontline staff

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 13 April 2020 22:22 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Ethnic minorities and young people are taking a disproportionate financial and employment hit from the coronavirus pandemic, exclusive polling reveals.

The “shocking” findings sparked a call from race equality campaigners for urgent government action to protect communities who provide an outsized share of those at risk from the disease as they continue to work in essential frontline services like health and social care and bus driving.

The BMG poll for The Independent laid bare the scale of hardship across the country resulting from the lockdown measures to tackle the outbreak, with almost a third of all households seeing their finances cut and more than one in 20 saying that they have lost over half their income.

But it showed that people from black and minority ethnic (Bame) households were almost twice as likely as white Britons to report having lost income and jobs.

And it found that workers aged under 35 were significantly more likely to have been made unemployed or “furloughed” than older colleagues.

Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley described the findings as “shocking” and said “dramatic action” was needed from the government to protect the interests of ethnic minority communities which provide a high proportion of the NHS staff fighting coronavirus on the frontline, including all of the doctors to die so far in the UK.

“The government needs to take dramatic action to protect the people who in many ways have been the bedrock of tackling the coronavirus – not only the health workers, but also people like bus drivers who are running the risk of infection to keep our cities operating,” said Lord Woolley, who chairs an advisory group to No 10’s race disparity unit.

“The virus itself doesn’t discriminate, but the system does, and that has left Bame communities extremely vulnerable both on health and economic grounds.

“There is a debt owed to these communities by the government and the nation and they must not be left behind.”

BMG found that 46 per cent of Bame people reported that their household income had reduced as a result of coronavirus, against 28 per cent of white British households. Some 15 per cent of respondents from ethnic minorities said they had lost their job, compared with 8 per cent of white Britons.

Labour on Saturday called for an inquiry into why coronavirus was disproportionately killing ethnic minorities in Britain.

A report on the first 3,883 patients critically ill with Covid-19 found that just over a third were non-white, compared with 18 per cent of the total UK population.

Shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said the number of deaths of doctors from these communities in the UK was “deeply disturbing”.

And the chair of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, echoed this call, saying the “disproportionate percentage of Bame people getting ill” had to be addressed. He said: “The government must act now.”

The impact of Covid-19 was also particularly hard on younger people, with 44 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they had lost income, compared with 36 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 11 per cent of over-65s.

Some 13 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 15 per cent – one in seven – of 25- to 34-year-olds said they had lost their jobs, compared with 7 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds and 4 per cent of those aged 55 to 64.

Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine warned that younger people – who are also seeing their education and training disrupted as schools and colleges close – risk being forgotten victims of the lockdown.

“We cannot afford to leave behind a generation of people,” warned Ms Jardine.

“Now more than ever, the government must drop the foolish notion that coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. As an absolute priority, ministers must pick up the pace and act to reduce the inequality gap.

“Liberal Democrats will be a voice for the most vulnerable at this challenging times. We are calling on the government to introduce a ‘citizen’s income’ and an end to the five-week wait for benefits by raising benefit rates, abolishing sanctions and turning day-one universal credit loans into grants.”

The BMG poll exposed the extent of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Overall, 31 per cent of those questioned said their household income had fallen.

Of those who are facing reduced financial circumstances, a massive 20 per cent – the equivalent of 6 per cent of the population as a whole, or around 4 million people – said their household had lost half or more of its total income.

The impact of empty supermarket shelves is hitting ethinic minorities and the poor hardest (AFP/Getty)

Some 11 per cent of those reporting a loss said their total household income had dropped by up to 9 per cent, 23 per cent said it was down by between 10-19 per cent, 26 per cent that they had lost 20-29 per cent of their income, 7 per cent had lost 30-39 per cent and 5 per cent had lost 40-49 per cent.

In a reflection of the empty supermarket shelves left by panic buying, some 50 per cent of those questioned said they had experienced difficulties sourcing food and 49 per cent obtaining other essential items during the outbreak.

And family life has suffered, with 23 per cent unable to visit relatives or friends with new babies, 11 per cent missing funerals and 5 per cent cancelling or postponing wedding plans. Half of all those surveyed (50 per cent) said they had cancelled holidays because of coronavirus.

BMG questioned 1,541 British adults between 7 and 9 April

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