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Black and ethnic minorities hit 26 times harder by the Covid jobs crisis, TUC warns

BME employment has dropped by 5.3% over the last year compared with just 0.2% among white workers

BLACK and minority ethnic (BME) workers have been hit 26 times harder by the Covid-19 jobs crisis than their white counterparts, according to new research.

TUC analysis of official statistics published today shows that BME employment has dropped by 5.3 per cent over the last year compared with a dip of 0.2 per cent among white workers and is on course to get worse.

About one in 12 BME workers are now unemployed, compared with one in 22 white workers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that BME workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact. 

Sector by sector, BME workers have fared worse than their white counterparts, TUC data reveals.

The number of black women working in arts and entertainment has dropped by 44 per cent. And the number of BME workers in the accommodation and food sector has fallen by 23 per cent, compared with 13 per cent among white workers.

Ms O’Grady said: “In every industry where jobs have gone, BME people have been more likely to be made unemployed.

“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.”

Ms O’Grady said the pandemic has “held up a mirror to discrimination in our labour market.”

“The time for excuses and delays is over,” she said. “Ministers must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people at work.”

The overall unemployment rate is expected to peak at about 7.5 per cent some time between April and June, according to data from the Office for Budget Responsibility, whereas 8.5 per cent of BME people are out of work now. 

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach, who is the chairman of the TUC’s new anti-racism task force, said the “disturbing evidence” of racial disparity in employment should be a wake-up call for the government.

He said: “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.”

Mr Roach said that the trade-union movement is stepping up to challenge racial injustice in the workplace and he invited the government to work with unions to tackle the underlying causes. 

The TUC is calling on the government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay-gap reporting, ban zero-hours contracts that disproportionately impact BME workers and publish all equality impact assessments on its responses to Covid-19.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac) co-founder Zita Holbourne warned that the equality impacts of the pandemic “need to be taken seriously.” 

She told the Star: “Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to be in front-line jobs, in precarious work. They are contracting and dying of Covid disproportionately. 

“They, alongside migrant workers, are more likely to be placed at high risk without adequate health and safety protection and have died as a result of this.

“And they are more likely to lose their job because of Covid and work for employers who have dismissed them rather than providing furlough.”

Ms Holbourne called for employers to have a zero-tolerance of racism and proper consideration of the racial risks and impacts of the pandemic on work, employment and labour, and how this affects BAME workers.

The government must take action for “adequate and appropriate” measures to save sectors, support workers and prevent poverty and discrimination, she said.

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