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Black and minority workers 26 times worse hit in Covid employment crisis, research shows

Sean Morrison
·2-min read

Black and minority workers have been 26 times worse hit by the employment crisis sparked by coronavirus in the last year, research shows.

The Trades Union Congress called on the Government to challenge systemic racism, as its figures showed how much more people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities had been hit by the pandemic.

One in 12 BME workers are now unemployed, compared to just one in 22 of their white counterparts, the TUC found.

The employment rate for people from BME backgrounds has meanwhile dropped 5.3 per cent over the last year, around 26 times the fall in the rate for those from white backgrounds.

“The time for excuses and delays is over.

“Ministers must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people at work,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“BME workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic.

“In every industry where jobs have gone, BME people have been more likely to be made unemployed.”

The UK’s overall unemployment rate is expected to peak at about 7.5 per cent sometime between April and June, according to data from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

But 8.5 per cent of BME people are currently out of work, and the TUC’s data reveals that for instance the number of black women working in arts and entertainment has dropped by two fifths.

Even broken down by sectors, BME workers have fared worse than their white counterparts.

The number of BME workers in the accommodation and food sector has fallen by 23 per cent, compared to 13 per cent among white workers.

A similar pattern can be seen in the wholesale and retail sector, TUC analysis shows.

Ms O’Grady said: “In some sectors like hospitality, retail and the arts, BME employment has literally plummeted.

“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.”

The TUC called on the Government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, ban zero-hours contracts which disproportionately impact BME workers, and publish all equality impact assessments on Government responses to Covid-19.

Dr Patrick Roach, who chairs the TUC’s anti-racism taskforce, said: “This disturbing evidence showing that black workers have lost their jobs at a far greater rate during the Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the government.

“We have seen evidence of widening inequality during the pandemic – both because of the virus and because of the impact of the Government’s emergency measures.

“During previous economic downturns, BME workers have been ‘first out and last in’.

“The Government needs to address the causes and effects of structural racism and set out a national recovery plan that works for everyone.”