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No agreement on the causes of young black male unemployment in London

A new study has found that young black men believe racism and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rates. This is in stark contrast to reasons put forward by mainstream employment support providers that help unemployed people into work.

In the study - published by the Black Training and Enterprise Group - providers identified about 20 reasons why young black male unemployment is so high but the importance the providers’ accorded to these factors varied considerably.

In general, mainstream providers (those supporting all groups of job seekers) cited as the main reasons: 

  • poorly presented CVs
  • negative attitudes
  • lack of confidence or motivation

On the other hand, specialist providers (working particularly with black and minority ethnic communities) suggested:

  • lack of support
  • racism or discrimination from employers

The four local councils that participated in the research offered a wide range of explanations including:

  • the links between poverty and ethnicity
  • family breakdown and absent fathers
  • educational attainment
  • possible postcode discrimination from employers
  • lack of flexibility within DWP programmes to provide tailored individualised support
  • gangs and criminal records 

The gap between unemployment rates for young black men and young white men has grown in recent years. This is despite improved educational outcomes, with even black university graduates twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

Nearly 200 young black male Londoners aged 16-24 years participated in the study and they were clear that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rate (ILO unemployment rate for young black men is 48%).

‘Because black males are not shown in the best way in the publiceye. People stereotype them in gangs and this affects black males chances of getting a job.’ (Young black male, survey respondent)

The young black men that attended focus groups in their local jobcentres said it was the first time anyone had asked them about their views on this issue and about their experiences trying to find work. What they want is a personalised individual service from advisers who understand the barriers that they face.

The researchers found that employers, colleges, employment providers were reluctant to talk about young black male unemployment. The messages from this study to employment and education bodies is talk and listen to young black men about their experiences and aspirations and remind employers there is a talent pool that they are missing out on.

I hope some of these issues will be addressed by the half a million pounds of new funding Trust for London is making available to tackle the high unemployment rates of young black men in the capital.

‘Action Plan To Increase Employment Rates For Young Black Men In London 2014’, Published by BTEG.


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