London, United Kingdom – Ethnic minority Britons in the UK have been disproportionately affected by job cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents the country’s unions.
From September 2019 to September 2020 – a period that included the peak months of the first wave of coronavirus in the UK – the number of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) workers with jobs fell by 5.3 %, compared with a 0.2% drop among white workers, the TUC said on Wednesday.
The numbers mean that ethnic minority staff were fired at a rate 26 times higher than white workers.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said the pandemic had “painted a mirror of discrimination” in the labor market, as she called on the UK government to take action to end “racism and systemic inequalities ”.
“The time for apologies and delays is over,” O’Grady said.
“BME [Black and minority ethnic] workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic, ”she said. “In all sectors where jobs have disappeared, BME people are more likely to be made unemployed.”
“And when BME workers have kept their jobs, we know they’re more likely to work in low-paying, insecure jobs that put them at increased risk of the virus.”
Patrick Roach, chairman of the TUC’s anti-racism task force, said government officials must tackle the causes and effects of “structural racism” and define a national recovery plan.
“This disturbing evidence showing that black workers have lost their jobs at a much higher rate during the COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the government,” he said.
Hospitality, retail sectors
Around 8.5% of workers belonging to ethnic minorities, or one in 12, are now unemployed according to TUC analysis, based on the latest UK labor market data.
In comparison, 4.5% of white workers, or one in 22, are currently out of work.
Unemployment in both groups increased during the year through September 2020, but unemployment among ethnic minorities rose 1.5% compared to 0.9% among whites.
Despite a government-funded multibillion-pound leave program, in total, more than 800,000 people in the UK have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, official figures show.
The losses were concentrated in sectors such as hospitality and retailing and disproportionately affected employees of ethnic minorities in these industries.
The number of employees belonging to ethnic minorities employed in the food and accommodation industries fell 23 percent, compared to a drop of 13 percent among white workers.
There was an even greater disparity in retailing, where the number of white workers fell by one percent, compared to a 16 percent drop in ethnic minority workers.
“We used to have families doing their own thing,” Halima Begum, director of the UK race equality think tank Runnymede Trust, told Al Jazeera. “Their lives have now been capsized by the storm caused by COVID.”
Begum said the TUC’s findings were “not surprising” given that people from ethnic minorities were more likely to work in industries such as hospitality and retail and, more generally, in jobs. precarious and poorly paid with fewer employment rights.
She also warned that ethnic minority communities risked facing a slower economic recovery after the pandemic, as poverty rates in those communities were already disproportionately high, even before the global health crisis erupted.
‘Wake-up call for the government’
In light of its findings, the TUC called on officials to introduce a mandatory report on the ethnic pay gap – reflecting the rules already in place on gender pay disclosure – and to publish “plans to” action ”to ensure fair treatment of ethnic minority workers in the workplace.
He also urged the government to ban controversial zero hour contracts, which he said have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities.
In response to Al Jazeera’s request for comment, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the government had already introduced measures to protect, support and create jobs “alongside to one of the most generous and comprehensive employment assistance programs in the country. world”.
“Equality impacts remain a key part of the policy-making process and we are constantly monitoring them,” said a spokesperson for BEIS.