A recent TUC review of official figures released today showed that the unemployment rate for BME employees has increased by more than double the rate of the unemployment rate for white workers (Saturday).
The ONS study discovered that the BME unemployment rate rose from 5.8% to 9.5% between the final quarters of 2019 and 2020, a rise of almost two-thirds.
Meanwhile, white employees’ unemployment rose from 3.4% to 4.5% – a gain of about a third.
As of the second quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate for all jobs is expected to peak at 7.5%.
However, the study shows that the number of BME people unemployed is way above this scenario’s worst-case estimate, states the TUC.
1 in 10 BME women are still unemployed, and the unemployment rate for Black African and Caribbean jobs has increased to 13.8% – about three times the rate for white unemployment.
The latest report arrives on the heels of a joint declaration signed by unions, foundations, and human rights activists demanding that the Prime Minister fulfil his promise last summer to end systemic injustice and economic disparity.
The declaration encourages the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to quickly publish its study on institutional inequality, which was initially scheduled to be published in January but has already been pushed back twice.
This Sewell Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was created after the horrible effects that the Covid-19 pandemic had on BME populations. The statement warns that the situation for BME citizens has now reached a “critical” level:
“Despite progress on equality, change is urgent. BME people are three times more likely to die from Covid-19. The BME unemployment rate is running at almost double that of white workers. And BME workers in London experience a 24% pay gap.”
And the declaration goes on to caution ministers against developing conditions where White and BME working people will be pitted against each other:
“The UK must address the inequal opportunities faced by low income people, and the glaring disparities across the regions and nations of the UK alongside the racism and structural discrimination face by BME communities. But we will not stand by as white and BME working people are pitched against each other.”
The statement calls on the government to:
- Implement in full the recommendations from the seven reports commissioned since 2010: Lammy, Angiolini, Williams (Windrush), McGregor-Smith, Kline, Parker and Timpson
- Set out a race equality strategy to guide the Covid-19 response
- Introduce mandatory ethnicity pay reporting.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This pandemic has held up a mirror to the structural racism in our labour market – and wider society.
“BME workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19, losing their jobs twice as quickly as white workers.
“And when BME workers have held on to their jobs, we know that they are more likely to be working in low-paid, insecure jobs that put them at greater risk from the virus.
“This is evidence of the structural discrimination which has led to a disproportionate BME death rate from coronavirus.
“This crisis has to be a turning point. As we emerge from the pandemic, we can’t allow these inequalities in our workplaces – and our society – to remain.
“Ministers must stop delaying and challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people.”
Lord Simon Woolley, former Chair of the government racial disparity unit, said: “If the government cares about tackling deep seated structural racism it must deliver big now. Anything less will be a kick in the teeth for our communities.
“The government must stop pitting poor black people against poor white people – and effectively deal with systemic race inequality.”
Chair of the TUC’s anti-racism task force and General Secretary of NASUWT, Dr Patrick Roach said: “Racism is at work and it exists.
“There is clear and compelling evidence demonstrating the need for concerted action to eradicate the prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage that continue to deny many Black workers the opportunity to secure and progress in decent jobs and careers.
“The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for our economy, and especially for Black workers who are not only more likely lose their jobs but also to die at work.
“A national plan to tackle racial disparities in employment and in the labour market must also address the root causes and confront them head on.”