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UK black youth ‘three times as likely’ to be jobless after COVID-19

With new data showing the UK’s most severe black youth employment slump in 40 years, has COVID further exposed deep-rooted inequality within the job market?

Young black workers in the UK have been hit disproportionally hard during the pandemic, and the knock on effects could put a dent in our pursuit of total job equality for some time.

This troubling update comes courtesy of new data from the Office for National Statistics, which states that unemployment rates for black workers between the ages of 16 and 24 have risen has high as 40% throughout the last quarter of 2020 – compared to just 12% in the same period for white workers.

According to financial experts, this level of ethnical imbalance hasn’t existed in the modern job market since the 1980s. Yes, we’re talking potentially 40 years of standing still.

Decades on from the Brixton Riots, which ironically marked a real watershed moment for race relations in the UK, another imminent recession may show that we’ve yet to make significant progress re equal opportunities in the world of work.

In the lead up to the pandemic, between January and March last year (for those who have frankly no idea anymore), around 10% of young white people were without jobs compared to 25% of black people.

Nine months later, the numbers show that rates of unemployment shot up in the black community by 64% compared to just 17% for white people.

Arriving just two weeks after the government’s optimistic (yet divisive) race disparity report, this ONS data is certainly cause for concern, and leaves us wondering how much tangible systemic change has actually been made?

Photo credit: The Guardian

We’re led to believe that the government is removing superficial barriers to employment and striving for total social equality, yet the evidence tells a different story.

Experts now fear the UK is set for a breakdown in the labour market akin to that of the Brixton Riots, where the rate of unemployment for young black workers doubled in a matter of months.

According to senior economist Sarah Arnold, young minority ethnic workers are always in the most precarious position when the financial sector breaks down due to a general lack of ‘protection schemes,’ particularly in the UK.

Statistics show that many young ethnic workers are disposed to what is known as ‘insecure work’ – zero-hours and fixed term contracts, or potentially earning through cash-in-hand positions with next to no contractual security.

That means when furlough and universal credit schemes come into play to bide people over in tough times, government support in itself is adding to an inequality problem.

‘These kinds of jobs [insecure work] have received less protection from schemes like furlough, and it is likely this has contributed to unemployment rising much faster among these groups compared to both young white workers and the population as a whole,’ Arnold said to The Guardian.

It seems that despite the momentous elevation of the BLM movement in 2020, policy makers still have plenty to consider and work on if we’re to close long spanning disparities in the job market.

Introducing new schemes to benefit the whole country will only do so if the intricacies of socio-economics are considered. On that front, the data again demonstrates there needs to be an elevation of consciousness and also responsibility at the highest level.

If there’s one shred of positivity here, it’s that the government will have to finally stop deluding itself and realise that the job market currently isn’t even close to equitable.