The unemployment rate for Black and Minority Ethnic workers has risen three times faster than for white workers over the past year.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the unemployment rate for BME workers has increased from 6.1% in 2020 to 8% this year.
In contrast, the rate for white workers has increased much slower – from 3.6% to 4% in the same time period.
Unions say the new figures illustrate the continuing disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minorities.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:
BME workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They’ve been more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work and have been put at greater risk from the virus. They’ve also been more likely to work in industries that have been hit hard by unemployment, like hospitality and retail.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we can’t allow these inequalities in our jobs market to continue. Ministers must take decisive action to hold down unemployment, create good new jobs and challenge the discrimination that holds BME workers back.
The TUC is calling for the extension of the furlough scheme while it’s needed, and for the government to create a short-time work scheme for the future. This would mean employers could reduce workers’ hours on a temporary basis, but the government would cover most of their lost pay.
According to figures from November 2020, Black people were “twice as likely to catch coronavirus”. Asian people were also 1.5 times more at risk than white people.
And figures from October 2020 show that Black and South Asian people were more likely to die from coronavirus.
Furthermore, research by Mind in 2020 found that Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people were also more likely to report a decline in their mental health during the pandemic.
The ONS figures also showed that 917,000 people are still on zero-hours contracts in 2021.
Women from BME backgrounds are over-represented in this figure at nearly twice the percentage of white men on such contracts. This can leave BME workers in much less secure positions in their jobs.
The TUC is therefore calling on the government to end zero-hours contracts. O’Grady said:
Too many BME workers are stuck on zero-hours contracts, and face a triple whammy of low pay, limited rights, and an increased risk of dying from the virus.
This is what structural racism at work looks like – BME workers getting trapped in jobs with the worst pay and the worst conditions, struggling to pay the bills and feed their families.
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