The annual TUC Black Workers’ Conference has revealed that black and minority ethnic workers have a bleak future in Britain with job losses in the public sector and the soaring unemployment rate for 18-24 year-olds from an ethnic background.
The annual TUC Black Workers’ Conference was held on Friday, 8 April 2011, and ended on Sunday, 10 April.
In 2009 the TUC 16th Black Workers Conference highlighted the need for black and minority ethnic workers to organise as the credit crunch would most likely lead to these groups being disproportionately targeted for layoffs and redundancies. Two years on with government cuts in the public sector and soaring unemployment, and this prediction has come true for many workers from ethnic backgrounds.
In this years’ 2011 annual Black Worker’s Conference, held at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London, the TUC said that the unemployment rate for Black and Asian workers rose from 10.2 percent in October-December 2007, to 13 percent in the same period last year, a figure nearly twice as high than whites.
For young Black and Asian people, the picture was even bleaker. According to the TUC research the unemployment rate for 18-24 year-olds rose from 20.1 percent in 2007 to 30.5 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate for young whites is 16.4 percent.
Since 2007 the rate of unemployment among black women has ballooned to a massive 68 percent, and 24 percent among black males in just three years, and the TUC estimates that at least 127,000 Black and Asian workers will be on the dole as a result of the public sector cuts.
In a speech at the conference, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
“Black workers are bearing the brunt of Britain’s jobs crisis. It’s a truly desperate situation, with the unemployment rate for workers from ethnic minority backgrounds almost twice the level for white workers.”
“It gets even worse for black youngsters – almost one in three are without work. That’s not just a terrible waste of talent, but evidence of persistent discrimination within the labour market.” (TUC: 8 April 2011)
With the cuts to welfare, housing benefit changes, soaring tuition fees and the VAT rise black and minority ethnic families will be hit the hardest because of government policies, said Barber.
How racism continues to be the barrier to progress for black and minority ethnic communities
It is important that people from ethnic backgrounds recognise that racism continues to shape every aspect of their life relating to work, education, pension and mortgages etc.
According to Omar Khan, director of policy research at UK race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust (The racial wealth gap: not just an American problem: Omar Khan: The Runnymede Trust: 8 April 2011). the UK Department of Pensions has revealed that 60 percent of Black and Asian households do not have any savings whatsoever compared to 33 percent of white households.
Khan said that the UK’s Wealth and Assets survey in 2009 revealed that the average white household had £221,000 in assets compared to £76,000 for Black Caribbean households, £21,000 for Bangladeshi households and £15,000 for African households.
Khan also said that children of parents who have no assets struggle to access higher education and often take the first job that comes along.
In 2010 a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) titled, “How Fair is Britain?”, (Read New equality report reveals a racially unequal Britain) revealed a country far from being multicultural and equal.
The EHRC report said “Recent research found that Black and Asian groups earn less than White British people with the same qualification level and in particular Black male graduates earn 24% less than White British male graduates.” (p.415)
Black and minority ethnic groups, particularly, Bangladeshi and Afro Caribbean groups tend to live in a low income household in comparison to the white population. (p.479)
The EHRC report said “In the UK, a 2005 Fawcett Society survey estimated that 40% of ethnic minority women live in poverty; One-fifth of White women and two-fifths of Black women live in poverty, while poverty extends to almost two-thirds of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.” (p.480)
When it comes to housing black and minority ethnic groups fare the worse according to the report. It stated “…in Britain, just over 9% of all Asian (including Asian British) households are overcrowded relative to the bedroom standard, while almost 15% of all Black (including Black British) households are overcrowded against the standard. In contrast, fewer than 2% of all White British households are overcrowded.” (p.500)
Overall, “There is also a strong association between ethnicity and substandard housing”, according to the EHRC report.
At the 2009 Black Worker’s Conference Leslie Manasseh, and Chair of the 2007 Black Worker’s Conference, said that once in employment black and minority ethnic workers (BME) face racial barriers to job-related training, education and promotion. Manasseh also said that as a result of racial discrimination in the employment sector BME workers are still disproportionately concentrated in the service sectors such as public services, retail, hospitality, restaurants, banking, finance and insurance.
If you are unemployed racism has most likely played a part, if you live in sub standard housing more or likely racism has played a part, if you are paid low wages more or likely racism has played a part, if you cannot afford higher education or a mortgage more or likely racism has played a part, if you are going to suffer financially when you retire more or likely racism has played a part.
It can be argued that this type of structural organised racism at all levels of British society is not just coincidental, or even pockets of racism randomly scattered around British society, but rather a deliberate ploy to restrict the progress of BME communities. The figures supports this conclusion.
Racism continues to be the enemy of progress for many people from ethnic backgrounds in Britain and and still continues to play a massive role in shaping the life of every single person from an ethnic background and it is up to each and every one of us to organise, come together and fight for a better future.
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