The BAME employment crisis

Last week the Trades Union Congress released research that showed that BAME workers with degrees are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed. This is at the same time as the government pats itself on the back for falling unemployment numbers, while simultaneously failing to acknowledge that the last parliament saw a 50 per cent rise in unemployment for young BAME people. If this increase was represented by any other group, people would consider this a crisis. But when it comes to young black men and women, it is normal.

One of the most distressing aspects of this research is the fact that even after getting through an education system in which they historically do worse than their white peers, that despite completing a degree when there are low retention rates for BAME students, and even after graduating with a good degree in the face of the BAME attainment gap, they still do worse than their white peers when looking for a job. Of course, the attainment gap will be an important factor at play here in the disparity between BAME graduates and their white peers achieving a top degree, with the gap measuring at roughly 16 per cent. As many graduate-level jobs have a 2:1 degree as a minimum requirement, more BAME graduates are being shut out of lucrative graduate employment.

In the past 20 years, university has been sold to many of us from low income backgrounds as an equaliser in society, but unfortunately this is simply untrue, even more so if you are black. Those of us who have recently graduated will know that, these days, simply having a good degree is not enough to get a job and very often it is about having connections in the field you want to work in. Despite what some may think, class is still an important divider in society – nowhere is this more present than in the job market. It would be unrealistic to think that a BAME woman who grew up on a south London council estate with a degree, has the same employment prospects as a wealthy white woman from Chiswick with the very same degree.

So, while the TUC report may be surprising for some, for many of us it confirms what we already suspected, that being BAME means you will have worse outcomes than your white peers. Whether this is in the National Health Service, in school or in the employment market. Something drastic has to happen for this to change and the first step is acknowledging that this disparity exists.

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Samantha Jury-Dada is councillor in the London borough of Southwark. She tweets @SJuryDada

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Photo: Luftphilia

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Comments: 3...

  1. On April 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm Christabel Cooper responded with... #

    I would suggest that the problem starts much earlier than university.

    There are some professions in which connections are still (sadly) incredibly important, but I’d say those are the minority these days. I think the bigger problem is the one highlighted, i.e. that BAME students get worse results in their degrees and although this is not mentioned in the article, I suspect they also tend to go to less prestigious universities. A 2.1 from Oxbridge is seen as being much more valuable than a 2.1 from an ex-polytechnic – and we all know about the low numbers of BAME students attending Oxbridge.

    The fact is that there are currently too many graduates chasing too few genuinely graduate-level jobs, and employers will pick the students with the best degrees from the best universities. I think that it’s at high school level that most change needs to happen, to make sure that there is an aspiration for every student – whatever their background – to reach their full academic potential, and specifically to encourage and prepare more BAME students to apply to the top universities.

    • On April 27, 2016 at 9:00 am Nancytarias responded with... #

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