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Inequalities in the labour market:

the next Government should make ethnic minority youth unemployment a priority

BTEG is disappointed but not surprised to read recent headlines about the rise in long term unemployment among ethnic minority young people. Unemployment rates have been higher for ethnic minority people in the UK, of all ages, and particularly for people from black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups, for as long as these figures have been published.

It was always apparent that young people from black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups were hit hardest by rising unemployment from 2008. And despite falls in the unemployment rates for white young people over the last two years, unemployment rates for ethnic minority young people have continued to rise. Since 2011, when the overall unemployment rate began to decrease, the unemployment rate for ethnic minority young people has been twice as high as the unemployment rate for white young people.

BTEG has long campaigned about inequalities in the labour market opportunities for young people. With support from Trust for London we conducted research in 2013 which focused on young black males, the group which experienced the highest unemployment rate, at 50%, of all young people in 2012. Around 200 young black men contributed to this research by sharing their experiences of trying to find jobs.

Regardless of their educational background from those who left school with no qualifications to those with a Masters degree, these young men had all experienced racism, discrimination or negative stereotyping when searching for work. Those we talked to, without exception, had been in job interviews where they believed that the interviewer would rather not employ a young black man. They cannot prove that this is why they didn’t get the job, and there is no route from them to complain about being treated unfairly, so the young men don’t generally discuss this. Unemployment is somehow seen as ‘their fault’. As a result, it’s not too extreme to say that a lot of these young men are in a state of despair - they don’t see any chance of finding a decent job and have lost hope of ever having a reasonable income and a regular lifestyle.

Another key discovery from this research is that there is remarkably little evidence of what works to help young black men get into employment. To address this, one of the main outcomes from this research is that Trust for London and City Bridge Trust have set up the Moving on Up programme.

Moving on Up is funding six projects from April 2015 to test new approaches to helping young black men to get jobs, building an evidence base for what works. An Advisory Group, which we hope will include representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Greater London Authority, Jobcentre Plus and employers, will be following the progress of these demonstration projects over the next two years. 

It is difficult to see how a society which leaves so many of its young people without opportunities and without hope can be considered successful. When the lack of opportunities and lack of hope affects ethnic minority young people at a disproportionate rate, then it is difficult not to conclude that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping are indeed the explanatory factors. When these racial inequalities have persisted for as long as the statistics have been collected, then the need for stronger action to deal with this becomes urgent.

The next Government should make ethnic minority youth unemployment a priority. It is hard to see how this equality deficit will be tackled unless the Government sets national and local targets to increase the employment rates for young ethnic minority people to the national average.

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