Kevin Rowan column

My guess is that many people won't know that this Wednesday, March 21, is actually the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, established following the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, when 69 anti-apartheid protesters were killed.

My guess is that many people won't know that this Wednesday, March 21, is actually the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, established following the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, when 69 anti-apartheid protesters were killed.

Fortunately, after much suffering, the apartheid system has been dismantled, but racial discrimination is still a severe feature of our labour market and a frequent feature in our communities.

There are now more black and Asian people in work than there has ever been, but progress is slow.

If the employment rate for black workers continues to rise at such a modest pace, it could take 46 years before employment is as high amongst the black working age population as it is amongst the white working age population.

Having one or more parents in paid employment has a major impact on a family's finances because there is a clear link between work and poverty.

As more black and Asian adults are currently without work, their families are more likely to be poor. If the Government's 2020 target for the elimination of child poverty is to be achieved, the improvement in the black employment rate needs to accelerate rapidly.

Continued employer reluctance to recruit ethnic minority candidates, even though they may be better skilled than fellow white job hunters, is blamed for the continuing gap between the numbers of black and white people out of work. Whatever the level of qualification, an ethnic minority person is more likely to be unemployed.

A white person who only has GCSEs, is more likely to have a job than a black job hunter with A-levels.

Black and minority ethnic women face a double discrimination, for their gender and their race.

They are more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive than any other group in the labour market; are victims of occupational segregation due to stereotyping by employers, resulting in workers taking jobs well below what they are capable of doing; are disproportionately more likely to be in temporary or agency work where pay and conditions are generally much lower than permanent jobs; and are much less likely than white men or women to participate in workplace training.

No wonder then that people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are among the most deprived in the UK. Only one in five white people live below the Government poverty line, but nearly seven out of 10 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis live in poverty.

They are more likely to have no qualifications or have a limiting long-term illness than other groups, and have the lowest employment rate (43%) of any ethnic group.

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