Young, jobless and Black: UK minorities pay price of pandemic

Young, jobless and Black: UK minorities pay price of pandemic

One in three young Black Britons are out of work as crisis widens unemployment gap between ethnic groups

Young Black Britons have borne the brunt of pandemic job losses, with more than a third now out of work – nearly three times the rate for young white people, a think tank said on Wednesday.

The crisis has widened pre-pandemic inequality gaps between ethnic groups, particularly among first-time job seekers, according to research by the Resolution Foundation.

What does the data show?

Large parts of the economy have temporarily shut in the pandemic to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Under-25s have been disproportionately impacted, partly as they are more likely to work in hospitality and leisure, which have been badly hit by lockdowns.

Young people accounted for 57% of the fall in employment over the past year, according to the analysis. Dig deeper and the data shows which ethnic groups have been hit hardest.

Even pre-COVID-19, unemployment was 2.5 times higher among young Black people than their white peers: 25% against 10%.

By late 2020, the jobless rate had risen to 35% for young Black people – a 10 point increase, compared to 13% for young white people – a 3 point increase.

Among young Asians, the rate rose to 24%, up 3 points.

What about school leavers and graduates?

Unemployment has risen fastest among people who left education just before or during the crisis.

Nearly 38% of leavers from a Black background were unemployed at the end of 2020, compared to 23% of their Asian counterparts and 14.5% among young white leavers.

Although a higher proportion of young Blacks and Asians achieve degrees than young white people, the analysis shows they face a harder time securing jobs.

By the end of 2020, unemployment among young Black graduates had soared to 34%, up from 22% pre-pandemic, compared to 13% for white graduates.

What is the wider context?

The report comes at a time of increased scrutiny of racial inequality in Britain following the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country last year, triggered by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the country’s economic and health inequalities, with Black and Asian people at higher risk of death from infection.

The findings follow protest over a new government review on race inequality that concluded there was no institutional racism in Britain, whatever the statistics might suggest. Critics have branded the report a “whitewash” instigated to gloss over deep-rooted problems, such as why Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.       

What should the government and employers be doing?

As the economy begins to re-open, the Resolution Foundation said the government, policymakers and employers must make serious efforts to address these stark differences.

Firms should investigate inequalities in their workforce and tackle discrimination in hiring and career progression, it said.

And it urged government to expand its youth jobs scheme to protect young people from the impact of protracted joblessness.

It noted that employers can be wary of hiring the unemployed, and that the amount of time spent out of work reduces opportunities to develop skills and get on career-wise.

“Young people have sacrificed their livelihoods in order to save the lives of others from Covid-19,” Resolution Foundation policy analyst Kathleen Henehan told British media.

“Putting their careers back on track must be a priority for government in the months and years ahead.”

Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths Thomas Reuters Foundation