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New ONS figures published today reveal that the unemployment rate for BME workers has risen at three times the speed of the rate for white workers
  • New ONS figures published today reveal that the unemployment rate for BME workers has risen at three times the speed of the rate for white workers 

  • ONS figures also show that 917,000 people are still on zero-hours contracts 

  • TUC calls for an extension to furlough and for a ban on zero-hours contracts 

Commenting on the latest employment figures published by the ONS today (Tuesday), which show that over the last year the unemployment rate for Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers has risen from 6.1 to 8% (1.9 percentage points or a 31% increase) three times the speed of the unemployment rate for white workers, which has risen from 3.6 to 4% (0.4 percentage points or an 11% increase), TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:    

“BME workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They’ve been more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work and have been put at greater risk from the virus. They’ve also been more likely to work in industries that have been hit hard by unemployment, like hospitality and retail.  

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we can’t allow these inequalities in our jobs market to continue. Ministers must take decisive action to hold down unemployment, create good new jobs and challenge the discrimination that holds BME workers back. 

“And our recovery is still fragile, with more than a million workers on furlough. Instead of pulling the rug out from under the feet of businesses and workers, the chancellor must extend the furlough scheme for as long as is needed to protect jobs and livelihoods – and work towards setting up a permanent short-time work scheme to deal with future crises.” 

Zero-hours contracts 

Commenting on ONS figures also published today that show the number of people on zero-hours contracts has fallen slightly from 1.08million in April-June 2020 to 917,000 in April-June 2021, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“It’s shocking that there are still just under a million people on zero hours contracts. 

“Many of these are the key workers who worked through Covid-19, but still face the uncertainty of not knowing when their next shift will be. And we know BME women are twice as likely to be on these low-paid, insecure contracts than white men. 

“Insecure workers have been most likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, but the use of these contracts remains stubbornly high.  

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Government must ban zero-hours contracts now.” 

Editors note

- Today’s labour market statistics from the ONS are available here:  
- BME unemployment is rising at three times the rate of white unemployment: 

Unemployment rate 

Q2 2019 

Q2 2020 

Q2 2021 

Percentage point change 

% change 





0.5 ppts 










1.9 ppts 


- A report published by the TUC and ROTA in June found that BME women are almost twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men:  
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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