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An alarming rise in the number of BME workers in insecure work

Published date
Since 2011 we have seen soaring rates of insecure work among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) workers.

More than twice as many BME workers are in insecure work - that’s a 132% rise since 2011.

These are jobs that come without the stability of regular hours, benefits, or job security, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. Racial discrimination isn't just about isolated incidents; it's about the structures that perpetuate unequal treatment and opportunities for BME people.

This is structural racism in action.

Discrimination in the workplace

We know that BME workers are frequently met with discrimination during the recruitment process, making it more challenging for them to access employment opportunities.

Opportunities for training and development often exclude BME workers, creating an uneven playing field compared to their white counterparts. And BME workers report being unfairly disciplined and dismissed.

BME workers are disproportionately denied promotions, stifling their career progression and contributing to their continued underrepresentation in leadership roles.

So, BME workers are frequently trapped in precarious contracts, leaving them vulnerable to sudden unemployment without notice or financial security.

Impact of insecure work

The effects of insecure work extend beyond the individual workers to the whole labour market. Irregular income and lack of good working conditions can lead to health issues, stress, and overall decreased mental health.

Work instability makes it harder to pay the bills, put food on the table, manage family commitments like childcare and also longer-term aspirations of better accommodation and saving up for a rainy day.  

The disproportionate impact of insecure work  further deepens existing inequalities, perpetuating cycles of poverty and debt.  

Addressing these disparities isn't just a matter of economic justice it's linked with building a more just and equitable society.

Last year it was reported about the alarming challenges faced by Deliveroo workers in the UK, as they encounter an astonishing number of crimes, totaling up to 600 incidents. These ranged from assaults and verbal abuse to theft and even threats of violence.

In Dublin an incident took place where a group of Deliveroo drivers were reportedly assaulted by a larger group of individuals, causing injuries to some of the workers.

These examples highlight the vulnerabilities and risks associated with gig economy work, where individuals often lack the safety net and protections typically provided to other workers.

And that’s why we need improved safety measures, support systems, and regulatory frameworks to protect gig workers who are on the front lines of the changing labor landscape.

Path to change

We need to get serious about how structural racism in the labour market is damaging people, their families and communities.

To help tackle structural racism in the labour market and end the scourge of insecure work, we are calling the government to:

  • Ban the abusive use of zero-hours contracts.
  • Introduce fair pay agreements
  • Crack down on bogus self-employment
  • End the two-tier workforce and reform the rules on employment status to ensure that all workers benefit from the same employment rights
  • Give workers a day one right to flexible working – not just a right to request.
  • Establish a comprehensive ethnicity monitoring system

Acknowledging the destructive impact of racial capitalism on BME workers in insecure employment is only the first step. Meaningful change requires a multifaceted approach.

The Government must enact and enforce policies that prioritise fair wages, worker protections, and benefits for all. Legislation should be intersectional, addressing the specific challenges faced by BME workers.

Employers must challenge their discriminatory practices and adopt better hiring practices that provide BME workers with equal access to secure job opportunities.

Trade unions can serve as a powerful voice for BME workers. Encouraging BME workers' to join a union can amplify their voices and influence systemic change.

Structural racism, as highlighted in our report "Still Rigged: Racism in the UK Labour Market" highlights the deeply entrenched inequalities within the UK's workforce. We all must rise up against it.

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