All in this together? Race and the recession

jobless written on typewriterA future that works has to work for all sections of society. It is quite clear that the Government’s current approach miserably fails this test.


According to the Labour Force Survey, unemployment among young people aged 16-24 stands at just under 22 percent. This is a staggering figure when you consider that it has almost doubled from its figure just five years earlier immediately prior to the beginning of the Great Recession. But this figure also hides some key differences for different ethnic groups. If a young person is white, there is a one in five chance that they will be out of work. If they are Asian, this prospect rises to over a quarter. For young people from the black community, there is an astonishing 50 percent chance that they will be unemployed.


In many ways this should come as no surprise. Even when the labour market was performing at its best, unemployment among young white workers stood at around one in 10, while it ranged from just over 18 percent to nearly 40 percent within the black and minority ethnic (BME) community.


There may be a mantra that we are all in this together, but the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will have greater impact on some groups more than others. There are twice as many women as men working in the public sector. And although the proportions of worker from ethnic minorities employed in the public and private sectors are similar, parts of the public sector actually represent major employers of particular BME communities.


Taking London as an example, since nearly one in three Londoners are from minority communities and half of Britain’s ethnic minority population lives in London, the public sector accounts for just over one fifth of the working population in the capital. However, the proportion of people from particular BME communities employed by the public sector in London is much higher than that. For example, the public sector in London employs over a third of black workers and 40 per cent of Black women workers.


This means that, depending on the scale of job losses suffered as a result of the CSR, there is almost certainly going to be a disproportionate impact upon London’s BME communities.


Research by UNISON has already shown that local authority redundancy programmes in London are having a disproportionate impact upon BME workers – particularly women. In one borough BME workers made up 30 percent of the workforce but 60 percent of the redundancies. In another, BME women made up just 5 percent of the workforce, but nearly a quarter of those selected for redundancy. For trade unions this should be a key issue. Apart from the fact that the highest density for any ethnic group is found among the black community,  where nearly 30 percent of workers are trade union members, this is a basic matter for fairness. Making sure that the future works for everyone must be a priority for the trade union movement.


Read from the TUC: Young black men have experienced sharpest unemployment rise since 2010


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