The Observer report about the Department for Work (DWP) and Pensions investigation into discrimination in recruitment has reinforced the view that not enough attention is being paid to the differentials in employment and pay, based on ethnicity.
Discrimination in employment is still rife and several reports now have highlighted the discrepancies, but there is as yet not enough focused government attention.
“If you’re white and of working age in Britain, 75% of you will have a job. If you’re of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin and of working age, less than half of you will have a job.
“If you’re of Afro-Caribbean descent, it’s about 60%. These statistics are alarming in themselves but what makes them even more frightening is that in the last 20 years they have not changed.”
His views are based on the Business Commission report in 2007 called ‘60/76’ to point out the gap of sixteen percentage points in 2007. They said:
“Britain takes itself to be one of the most tolerant and open-minded countries in the world, and among the most economically efficient. But we will never live up to this ideal whilst the ethnic minority employment gap persists. This is not a problem that will solve itself. Since 1985 the ethnic minority employment gap has fluctuated between 9% and 21%. The average for the period is 17.0%.
“It currently stands at 15.9%. At present 20% of children in poverty belong to ethnic minorities. Between two thirds and three quarters of all children in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are in poverty. This poverty will only increase in extent if the ethnic minority employment gap persists.”
The National Audit commission in February 2008 also reported on the employment gap putting it at 14.2%, adding:
“About one third of the working age ethnic minority population are neither working nor actively seeking work. This compares to some 21 per cent of the overall population who are ‘economically inactive.’”
The EHRC Research report Pay Gaps Across Equalities Areas – also in 2008 – highlighted the fact that even when in employment some ethnic minority groups will suffer pay differentials:
“Pakistani men had a pay gap of around 23% compared to White British men. Pay gaps were also high for Bangladeshi and Black African men (around 21% and 18% respectively)”
So to return to our earlier question what can be done:
- The Equality Bill currently going through parliament needs to have a much stronger emphasis on employment monitoring.
- The proposals on the table suggest that all of the rigorous monitoring required of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 will not be required and instead public bodies will only be asked for one figure on the gender pay gap and one figure on the percentage of ethnic minorities in employment. (Specific duties consultation GEO June 2009).
- This will not be good enough to tackle the issue of the Ethnic Minority Employment and pay gap.
- There are reasonable proposals for procurement conditions and we welcome this but they need to be strengthened to include all stage s of procurement and for tenderers to be required to submit figures for ethnic minority employment rates at all levels of the company.
- The Equality Bill should require Inspectorates as well as the EHRC to monitor recruitment performance and the pay gap (amongst other things) and to take clear and visible action when there are no improvements.
- There is a suggestion that the people responsible for the ‘discrimination’ were not bigots and should not be named and shamed. While we may concur that individuals may not have intended to discriminate it does point to the fact of institutional racism and in our view the companies 9not individuals) should be named – not for shaming purposes but asked to explain and improve.
- The EHRC should implement a follow up investigation and monitoring of the businesses/ bodies involved and where appropriate take legal action or require an action plan form those bodies to correct their practices.
Voluntary sector organisations should undertake awareness raising in communities to encourage more people to inquire about unsuccessful applications and follow up action.
They should also lobby MPs and peers to ensure the Equality Bill has sufficient provision to require employers to recruit fairly, monitor at every level AND act on the results to improve the situation.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway