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BME Unemployment Increasing Twice as Fast as White Workers

The unemployment rate for BME workers has risen at more than twice the speed of the unemployment rate for white workers, according to a new TUC analysis of official statistics.  The analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that the BME unemployment rate shot up from 5.8% to 9.5% between the final quarter of 2019 and the final quarter of 2020 – an increase of nearly-two thirds.  Over the same period the unemployment rate for white workers rose from 3.4% to 4.5% – an increase of just under a third.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the unemployment rate for all workers will peak at 7.5% in the second quarter of 2021.  But today’s analysis reveals that the number of BME people out of work is already far exceeding this worst-case scenario prediction, says the TUC.  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 BME women 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 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 in response to the disproportionate deaths of black and minority ethnic (BME) people  during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The statement warns that the situation for BME people is now ‘urgent’:

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 statement also warns ministers against pitching white and BME working people 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.

Government action needed now

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.”

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