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Trade unions: COVID job losses shows structural racism in UK workforce

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Portrait of young African businessman with mask for protection from corona virus outbreak social distancing inside the train
Analysis reveal that the BAME unemployment rate rose from 5.8% to 9.5% between the final quarter in 2019 to the same time period last year. The unemployment rate for white workers increased from 3.4% to 4.5% over the same time period. Photo: Getty

Unemployment numbers for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) have increased at more than twice the speed of the rate for white workers, a new study shows.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that the soaring figures amid the COVID-19 pandemic hold up a "mirror to the structural racism" in the UK workforce.

Analysis revealed that the BAME unemployment rate rose from 5.8% to 9.5% between the final quarter in 2019 to the same time period last year.

According to the report the unemployment rate for white workers increased from 3.4% to 4.5% over the same time period.

Official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the unemployment rate of Black people in the country (13.8%) is triple that of white people (4.5%).

Unemployment levels in the UK have risen to a five year high. Currently, there are 1.74 million people without a job, with women from ethnic minority backgrounds affected disproportionately. One in 10 women from minority ethnic backgrounds are now jobless, the TUC said.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said that unemployment is now "exceeding" worst-case projections. It has forecast that the unemployment rate for all workers will peak at 7.5% in the second quarter of 2021.

The TUC's analysis comes after charities, unions and campaigners signed a joint statement calling on prime minister Boris Johnson to take action to tackle and end structural racism and inequality in Britain.

“If the 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," Lord Simon Woolley, former Chair of the government racial disparity unit, said.

He added that the government must stop "pitting poor black people against poor white people" and tackle systemic race inequality.

READ MORE: UK's COVID-19 response makes 'existing gender equality problems worse'

Frances O’Grady, TUC's general secretary said: “This pandemic has held up a mirror to the structural racism in our labour market and wider society.” She said workers of colour had borne the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19, losing their jobs twice as quickly as white workers.

“When BME workers have held onto 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 is evidence of the structural discrimination which has led to a disproportionate BME death rate from coronavirus,” O’Grady said.

“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. Ministers must stop delaying and challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people.”

WATCH: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?