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Unemployment in Black Britain is Rising Thrice as Fast as White Workers During Pandemic

By Shola Adenekan


Saturday, February 27, 2021.

The unemployment rate for Black British workers has tripled in the past 18 months, according to a report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

BME unemployment now exceeding worst-case projections 

Leading workers’ rights union the Trade Union Congress (TUC), points out that this report means that the number of African-Caribbean people  out of work is already far exceeding this worst-case scenario prediction, previously forecasted by the British government. This is because the unemployment rate for Black African and Caribbean workers has risen to 13.8% – more than three times the rate for white unemployment – and 1 in 10 women of African descent in Britain, are now unemployed. 

Joint statement on the Sewell Commission 

The new analysis comes as unions, charities and campaigners have signed a joint statement calling on the British Prime Minister to take the action he pledged last summer to end structural racism and inequality.  

The statement calls on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to publish its report into structural racism – which was due to be issued in January but has now been put back twice – without further delay. 

The Sewell Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was set up last year, in response to the disproportionate deaths of Black and minority ethnic (BME) people  during the Covid-19 pandemic. Campaigners warn that the situation for Black Britain is now ‘urgent’.

They say African-Caribbean people are three times more likely to die from Covid-19. And Black British workers in London are experiencing a 24% pay gap, when compared with their white counterparts.

Workers’ rights activists suggest the UK must address the inequalities facing low income earners, as well as the glaring disparities across the regions and nations of the UK alongside the racism and structural discrimination being faced by African-Caribbean communities. 

Government action needed now 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says that 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,” she says. “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, she argues,  is evidence of the structural discrimination that has led to a disproportionate Black British 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,” she says. “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 that if the Tory 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 says the ONS figures show that 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. 

Dr Roach stresses that 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. 

He said: “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.” 

Unemployment in Black Britain is Rising Thrice as Fast as White Workers During Pandemic

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