Issue date
17 Apr 2015

The number of black and Asian workers in low-paid jobs increased by 12.7 per cent between 2011 and 2014, according to a new report published today (Friday) to mark the beginning of the TUC’s annual Black Workers’ Conference.

The report – Living on the Margins – shows that over the same period the number of white workers employed in low-paying industries increased at a much slower rate of 1.8 per cent.

In 2014 nearly two-fifths (37.6 per cent) of black and Asian workers worked in low-paid industries, such as cleaning, care work and catering, compared to three in ten (29.6 per cent) white employees.

The report also reveals that black and Asian workers are twice as likely to be
trapped in temporary jobs as white workers. One in 23 (4.3 per cent) black and Asian workers was in involuntary temporary employment in 2014, compared to one in 48 (2.1 per cent) white workers.

Between 2011 and 2014 the number of black and Asian workers stuck in temporary work because they couldn’t find a permanent job increased by 20 per cent, while for white workers it fell by 8 per cent.

The TUC says that black and Asian workers on temporary contracts typically earn £30 a week less than white workers in the same situation and nearly £200 a week less than employees on permanent contracts.

Other key findings from the report include:

• Underemployment – In 2014 nearly half a million (470,000) black and Asian workers were underemployed – an increase of 11,000 (2.4 per cent) on 2011. By contrast the number of underemployed white workers fell by 96,000 (3.4 per cent) between 2011 and 2014. 
• Agency work – Black and Asian workers are also more than twice as likely to be in agency work. The number of black and Asian employees doing agency jobs increased by nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) between 2011 and 2014, compared to a 16 per cent rise for white workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While it is good that more black and Asian people are getting back into work many have become trapped in low-paid and insecure jobs.

“For all the talk of a recovery, our economy still isn’t creating enough well-paid, permanent jobs to meet demand.

“These findings show how black and Asian workers have been disproportionately affected by the rise in causal work since the recession.”

The report recommends:

• The government should fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct two sector-based reviews each year to produce an action plan, agreed with employers, for improving performance in ethnic minority recruitment, retention and promotion.
• The government should use public procurement to improve the employment of black workers by explicitly including the promotion of racial equality in consideration for all government contracts.
• The government should take action to address the under-representation of young black and Asian workers on apprenticeships and ensure they are able to access the full range of apprenticeships.

- The low-paying industries are defined by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) as: textiles and clothing manufacture, retail hospitality, cleaning, hairdressing, agriculture, food processing, leisure, travel, sport, employment agencies, residential and domiciliary care and childcare. See LPC report 2015 pps37-38.
- The TUC’s measure of underemployment includes both employees who say they cannot find a permanent job and those in a permanent job who would like more hours.
- Copies of Living on the Margins are available from the TUC press office.
- All TUC press releases can be found at
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

Media enquiries:
Alex Rossiter  T: 020 7467 1285  M: 07887 572130  E: [email protected]
Tim Nichols  T: 020 7467 1337  M: 07876 452902  E: [email protected]
Clare Santry  T: 020 7467 1372  M: 07717 531150  E: [email protected]
Kay Atwal  T: 020 7467 1385  M: 07941 547469  E: [email protected]