The government must tackle systematic discrimination in the UK labour market by introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, a union body says, as new figures show one in 11 Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers are now unemployed.
The unemployment rate for BAME workers has risen at three times the rate of unemployment among white workers, according to a Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysis of new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published 18 May.
The unemployment rate among BAME workers grew from 6.3% to 8.9% between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, an increase of 41%.
Over the same period the unemployment rate for white workers rose from 3.6% to 4.1%, an increase of 14%. One in 25 white workers are currently unemployed.
The TUC argues that the latest ONS figures are evidence of structural racism with the labour market, casting further doubt on the government’s much-criticised race relations report that concluded the UK was not institutionally racist.
“Everyone deserves a decent and secure job. But covid-19 has shone a light on the discrimination in our labour market,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “[BAME] workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They’ve been more likely to work in industries like hospitality and retail that have been hit hard by unemployment.”
O’Grady said BAME workers are more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work that puts them at greater risk from coronavirus. “This structural discrimination has led to a disproportionate [BAME] death rate from coronavirus,” she added.
Ministers must hold down unemployment, create good new jobs, and challenge the systematic discrimination that holds [BAME] workers back
The TUC is calling on the government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and to make employers publish action plans to ensure fair wages for BAME workers.
At present, such pay gap data is only reported by employers on a voluntary basis. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities stated that while such reporting is “a useful tool” it should be approached with care.
Unlike, gender pay gap reporting, there are statistical problems with ethnicity pay gaps due to unreliable sample sizing within organisations, according to the commission’s findings in March.
Census data published in 2011 shows that 437 of 650 UK constituencies are more than 90% white, meaning many employers will not have enough BAME workers to record a statistically valid pay gap report.
“If an employer is in an area with a low ethnic minority population there may not be a diverse local candidate pool for firms to employ from,” said the commission.
The TUC, which is composed of 48 member unions, has also renewed its call for a ban on zero-hours contracts and for the government to publish all equality impact assessments related to its covid-19 response.
“Now we are emerging from the pandemic, we can’t allow these inequalities,” said O'Grady. “Ministers must hold down unemployment, create good new jobs, and challenge the systematic discrimination that holds [BAME] workers back.”
Chaired by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach, the TUC has launched an anti-racism task force commissioned to produce recommendations on tackling structural racism in UK workplaces and in unions themselves.
A recent survey of more than 1,500 UK found that half of working professionals are confused over which diversity-related terms they can use without causing offence.
One in six workers fear they could lose their job if they get terms around race and ethnicity wrong; 30% believe it would result in a formal disciplinary.