Socialist Worker

Black and Asian workers hit hardest by pandemic job losses

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2739

Unemployment is rising as the Tories and bosses try to make workers pay for the coronavirus crisis

Unemployment is rising as the Tories and bosses try to make workers pay for the coronavirus crisis (Pic: Wikimedia/Creative Commons)


Black and Asian workers have been hit the most by job cuts during the pandemic.

Research from the TUC union federation shows 8.5 percent of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers were unemployed between July-September 2020. This is a 1.5 percent rise from a year earlier.

For white workers, the unemployment rate increased to 4.5 percent—a rise of 0.9 percent during the same period.

The TUC suggested that some of the disparity is caused by the fact that black workers are more likely to work in hard-hit industries such as hotels and food services.

But within those sectors black workers have been more likely than white people to lose their jobs

For example, in accommodation and food, the number of white workers has fallen by 13 percent. 

But for BAME workers the fall is a staggering 23 percent—almost twice as much.

Black workers both disproportionately work in sectors that are hardest hit, and then also face discrimination within those sectors.

A detailed look at the figures reveals some extraordinary disparities.

In arts and entertainment the number of white women employed has risen by 3 percent. The number of BAME women has fallen by 44 percent.

Black people are also more likely to be part-time workers who have been at increased risk of redundancy since the pandemic began.

Picture 

Many newspapers said the figures show “the number of BAME workers in employment has dropped by 26 times more than the drop in white workers over the same period”.

That’s true, but it isn’t the whole picture. 

In fact the BAME employment rate—the number of workers in employment as a percentage of the whole BAME population aged 16 to 64—has risen. But the BAME population as a whole has fallen by 463,000.

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As the TUC says, “Overall, the BAME population as measured in these statistics has fallen by 8 percent. That’s almost half a million BAME people suddenly missing from the statistics.”

This is probably linked to a major population change.

Up to 1.3 million people born abroad left Britain between the third quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2020. 

That estimate was contained in a report last week from the government-funded Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence. The study drew a clear link between the departure of so many foreign-born nationals and the high number of job losses in sectors which relied on migrants.

“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers,” the authors concluded. “and that has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “BAME workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic. 

“In every industry where jobs have gone, BME people have been more likely to be made unemployed. And when BAME workers have held on to their jobs, we know that they are more likely to be working in low-paid, insecure jobs that put them at greater risk from the virus.

“This pandemic has held up a mirror to discrimination in our labour market.”

It’s time for action to save jobs and to tackle racism. It is in the interests of all workers—black, white and Asian—to fight together. 


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