Beth Farhat: The rising number of black and Asian workers in low-paid jobs

"For all the talk of a recovery, our economy still isn't creating enough well-paid, permanent jobs to meet demand," said Beth Farhat

Iain Buist Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC

The number of black and Asian workers in low-paid jobs increased by 12.7 per cent between 2011 and 2014, according to a new report published last Friday to mark the beginning of the TUC’s annual Black Workers’ Conference.

The report – Living on the Margins – shows that over the same period the number of white workers employed in low-paying industries increased at a much slower rate of 1.8%.

In 2014 nearly two-fifths (37.6%) of black and Asian workers worked in low-paid industries, such as cleaning, care work and catering, compared to three in ten (29.6%) white employees.

The report also reveals that black and Asian workers are twice as likely to be trapped in temporary jobs as white workers. One in 23 (4.3%) black and Asian workers was in involuntary temporary employment in 2014, compared to one in 48 (2.1%) white workers.

Between 2011 and 2014 the number of black and Asian workers stuck in temporary work because they couldn’t find a permanent job increased by 20%, while for white workers it fell by 8%.

The report says that black and Asian workers on temporary contracts typically earn £30 a week less than white workers in the same situation and nearly £200 a week less than employees on permanent contracts.

Other key findings from the report include:

* Underemployment - In 2014 nearly half a million (470,000) black and Asian workers were underemployed - an increase of 11,000 (2.4%) on 2011. By contrast the number of underemployed white workers fell by 96,000 (3.4%) between 2011 and 2014.

* Agency work - Black and Asian workers are also more than twice as likely to be in agency work. The number of black and Asian employees doing agency jobs increased by nearly two-fifths (38%) between 2011 and 2014, compared to a 16% rise for white workers.

For all the talk of a recovery, our economy still isn’t creating enough well-paid, permanent jobs to meet demand.

These findings show how black and Asian workers have been disproportionately affected by the rise in causal work since the recession.

The report recommends:

* The government should fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct two sector-based reviews each year to produce an action plan, agreed with employers, for improving performance in ethnic minority recruitment, retention and promotion.

* The government should use public procurement to improve the employment of black workers by explicitly including the promotion of racial equality in consideration for all government contracts.

* The government should take action to address the under-representation of young black and Asian workers on apprenticeships and ensure they are able to access the full range of apprenticeships.

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