BME unemployment rate over twice as high as white workers – with gap widening through pandemic

New analysis by the TUC published today has revealed the unemployment rate for BME workers is more than double that of their white counterparts.

6 May 2022| News

The union body warns the gap has widened significantly since the start of the pandemic – with the unemployment rate for BME workers now at 7.7%, compared to 3.5% for white workers.

Analysis of annual averages of the unemployment gap over the last 20 years shows it is now the widest it has been since 2008.

This shows the employment rate for BME workers is recovering at a slower rate than that of white workers.

The analysis shows:

  • The unemployment rate for BME workers is now 1.9ppts (33%) higher than it was pre-pandemic. For white workers, it’s 0.1ppts (2%) higher.
  • The unemployment rate for BME workers is now 7.7%, compared to 3.5% for white workers.
  • This means that the unemployment rate for BME workers is now over twice as high. This has widened significantly over the pandemic. The gap was 69% in Q4 2019 and was 120% in Q4 2021.

The TUC says the data shows BME workers, who were disproportionately impacted through the pandemic by Covid-related job losses, are now significantly more likely to be trapped in unemployment than their white counterparts. They are calling for an end to the structural discrimination and inequalities that hold BME people back at work.

The TUC says employers must:

  • Work with trade unions to establish a comprehensive ethnic monitoring system covering ethnicity pay-gap reporting, recruitment, retention, promotion, pay and grading, access to training, performance management and discipline and grievance procedures.
  • Analyse, evaluate and publish their monitoring data
  • Work with trade unions and workforce representatives to develop action plans that address racial disparities in their workplaces.

And the TUC is calling on government and public authorities to:

  • Introduce race equality requirements into public sector contracts for the supply of goods and services. The TUC says this would incentivise companies to improve their race equality policies and practices and minimise the use of zero-hours, temporary and agency contracts and promote permanent employment. The union body says companies that do not meet the requirements should not be awarded a public contract.

In addition, the TUC is calling on the EHRC to work with trade unions to use its investigative powers and the newly established Race Equality Fund to address race discrimination in all labour market sectors.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary said:

“BME workers bore the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic. In every industry where jobs were lost to the impact of Covid, BME workers were more likely to have been made unemployed.

Now, BME workers are being held back in their search for work.

The pandemic held up a mirror to discrimination in our labour market.

As we start to build back, the time for excuses and delays is over. Ministers must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people at work.”