Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers are a third more likely than white workers to be underemployed with fewer hours of employment than they would like, according to the Trades Union Congress.
The TUC warns in a report today that the higher underemployment rate for BAME workers is a waste of talent and is calling on employers and ministers to tackle discrimination in the workplace.
The report follows a review by the government’s human rights watchdog last week that concluded that life chances for young minority ethnic people had got worse over the past five years and were “the most challenging for generations”. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said BAME workers faced higher unemployment rates, lower pay and were underrepresented in senior roles.
The TUC used official figures to analyse how BAME workers were being affected by underemployment, a measure of those in employment who work shorter hours than they would like. It highlights that in the first quarter of 2016, BAME workers had an underemployment rate of 15.3%, compared with 11.5% for white workers. The research shows that if BAME workers had the same rate as white workers, more than 110,000 would be lifted out of underemployment.
“Underemployment is a major problem in the UK, and it only gets worse if you’re black, Asian, or part of any ethnic minority. This is not only wrong, but a massive waste of talent too,” said the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady.
“We know this is part of a much bigger story. BAME workers are more likely to be unemployed, paid less, and aren’t getting enough of the top jobs. Employers and the government cannot afford to ignore these problems. They must now take real action to tackle underemployment and pay discrimination.”
The former business secretary Sajid Javid had called on businesses to do more to support the careers of black and minority ethnic (BME) workers and commissioned Ruby McGregor-Smith, the chief executive of the facilities management company Mitie, to undertake an independent review of BAME progression at work. The review is due to report by the end of this year.
The TUC report forms part of its submission to the McGregor-Smith review.
Responding to the TUC’s findings, a government spokesman said: “Once in the labour market many ethnic minorities still face unfair obstacles that prevent them from fulfilling their potential.
“That is why we asked Baroness McGregor-Smith to undertake a review looking at the barriers faced by employees and business in developing ethnic minority talent. We urge people to give us their views as the call for evidence closes today.”
Under the government’s “BME 2020 plan” ministers have been charged with increasing the number of BME students going to university, raising apprenticeship takeup and ensuring that 20,000 startup loans are awarded to BME applicants by 2020.
The TUC is calling on employers to do more to tackle racism in the jobs market, including by publishing ethnic monitoring reports on underemployment, hiring, firing, promotion and training. It is also recommending standardised, anonymous job application forms.
It wants Theresa May’s government to develop a comprehensive race equality strategy and is calling for workers’ rights to be expanded to include temporary and part-time workers. The group is also urging the government to use public sector contracts to improve companies’ race equality practices.
The push for a clear government plan on tackling inequality echoes the criticism from the EHRC chair, David Isaac. Presenting last week’s review he said: “So far the government’s economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity.”
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