Black and Asian women face 'double whammy' of discrimination at work

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date: 6 April 2006

embargo: 00.01hrs Friday 7 April 2006

Black and Asian women are more likely to be out of work, have more problems finding a suitable job, and when they do, often have to settle for work for which they are over-qualified, according to a report published today (Friday) by the TUC.

'Black women and employment', released to coincide with the opening day of the annual TUC Black Workers Conference in Eastbourne, says that the unemployment rate among black women (5.4 per cent) is almost twice that of white women (2.9 per cent), and it is only slightly lower among Asian women (4.8 per cent).

However, the TUC report says that young black and Asian women starting out in the world of work have the same career aspirations and hopes for promotion as their white friends.

The report refers to recent Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) research that found that over half of Pakistani women (56 per cent) and black Caribbean women (54 per cent) aged 16-34 said they often found it difficult getting a job. Almost half of Bangladeshi women (49 per cent) said they often or sometimes struggled to find work. Only just over a third (34 per cent) of white British women said that finding work was sometimes a problem.

Of the same young women who struggled to find employment opportunities, while just over one in twenty of the white British women (6 per cent) said they'd ended up taking a job below their skill levels, almost a quarter (22 per cent) of Pakistani women had accepted jobs for which they were over qualified.

The same research found that employer attitudes and presumptions about ethnic minority women are also causing problems when prospective job candidates are called for interview. Whilst only 14 per cent of white British women had been asked about plans to get married or have children, the figure rises to a fifth (21 per cent) of Bangladeshi women, and around a quarter for black Caribbean (24 per cent) and Pakistani women (26 per cent).

Black and Asian women are also more likely to be working in temporary, less secure forms of employment than white women. Official statistics show that 9.4 per cent of black women and 8.3 per cent of Asian women, compared to just 5.7 per cent of white women are on fixed term contracts or working as temps with an employment agency.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Although black and Asian women have come a long way at work, employer attitudes and prejudices are still holding them back. Faced with a double whammy of discrimination because of their gender and their colour, it's no small wonder that true equality at work is still some years away.

'Many black and Asian women are keen to get into work, but feel they lack the necessary skills. The announcement in last month's Budget that the Government is to introduce measures to help low-skilled women access suitable training will help a great deal, but black and Asian female jobseekers could still do with more help finding good, quality affordable childcare.'

'Black women and employment' makes a number of recommendations including:

  • The TUC believes the trade union fight against inequality at work could be even more effective if union equality reps were given a statutory right to take time away from their jobs to concentrate on making UK workplaces fairer places for everyone.
  • Black and Asian women need to be given greater access to training opportunities at work and help with finding affordable, good quality childcare.
  • The Government should make greater use of positive public procurement policies so that companies that have positive records of tackling discrimination and promoting race equality are looked on favourably when public contracts are put out to tender.

To mark the beginning of the Black Workers Conference, the TUC and the EOC are also releasing a statement calling on the Government, employers and unions to look again at ways that they can improve the position of black and Asian women in the UK labour market.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- A full copy of 'Black women and employment can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/bwae.pdf

- The TUC Black Workers Conference takes place in Eastbourne's Floral Hall from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 April. Speakers include TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, TUC President Gloria Mills, CRE Commissioner Kamaljeet Jandu, and Michael Abatan from the Justice for Jay campaign - set up to win justice for the family of Jay Abatan, a member of the Public and Commercial Services Union, who died after being attacked by racist thugs outside a Brighton nightclub seven years ago.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: media@tuc.org.uk

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