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NEW analysis by the TUC reveals the number of Black and ethnic minority workers in insecure work more than doubled from 2011 to 2022
  • BME men almost twice as likely to be in insecure work as white men – and BME women are more likely to be insecure work compared to white women 

  • Insecure work is characterised by low pay, variable hours and fewer rights and protections for workers  

  • The disproportionate concentration of BME workers in insecure work shows “structural racism in action”, the TUC says 

New analysis published by the TUC today (Monday) reveals the number of Black and ethnic minority (BME) workers in insecure work more than doubled from 2011 to 2022 (from 360,200 to 836,300). 

The chance of a BME worker being in an insecure job has also increased, with 1 in 6 in this position now compared to 1 in 8 in 2011.   

The TUC says the “boom” in BME workers in insecure work accounts for the vast majority of the overall increase in insecure workers over the last decade.  

BME workers account for two thirds of the growth of insecure workers in this period – despite BME workers making up just 14% of the overall workforce.    

Insecure work is typically low-paid, and those in insecure jobs have fewer rights and protections. This means their hours can be subject to the whims of managers and they can lose work without notice. 

Nation of insecure work 

The TUC says the UK is becoming a “nation of insecure jobs”, with precarious and low-paid work widespread in all regions and nations of the UK.   

There are 3.9 million people in insecure employment – that’s 1 in 9 across the workforce.    

London (13.3%) and the South West (12.7%) have the highest proportion of people working in insecure jobs.    

The industries with the highest proportion of insecure work are the elementary occupations, caring, and leisure services, and process, plant and machine operatives.  

Low-paid work is increasingly insecure work – in 2011, 1 in 8 low paid jobs were insecure, but by the end of 2022, 1 in 5 low paid jobs were insecure. 

“Stark inequalities” 

The TUC says the disproportionate number of BME workers in insecure work shines a light on “stark inequalities” in the labour market. 

The proportion of BME workers in insecure work significantly increased between 2011 and 2022, while the proportion of white workers in insecure work remained relatively stable: 

  • The proportion of BME workers in insecure work increased from 12.2% to 17.8%. 

  • The proportion of white workers in insecure work remained at around the same level – going from 10.5% to 10.8%. 

BME workers are significantly more likely to be in insecure work compared to white workers: 

  • BME men are almost twice as likely as white men to be in insecure work (19.6% of BME men in work compared to 11.7% white men). 

  • BME women are much more likely than white women to be in insecure work (15.7% of BME women in work compared to 9.9% white women). 

While BME employment grew between 2011 and 2022 by 1.7 million, much of the increase in employment was in low-paid and precarious insecure work. 

Between 2011 and 2022, almost a third (27%) of the increase in BME employment was in insecure work, compared to just 16% for the increase in white employment. 

The TUC says the explosion in the gig economy partly explains the significant rise in BME insecure employment – with the number of BME workers in low-paid self-employment surging over the past decade. TUC analysis has shown a particular rise in low paid self-employment in delivery and driving among BME men. 

Structural racism in action 

The TUC says the overrepresentation of BME workers in insecure work shows “structural racism in action”. 

The union body says BME workers experience racism at every stage of the labour market. 

This includes discrimination in recruitment processes, lower opportunities for training and development compared to white workers, being unfairly disciplined, and being typecast into specific roles often with less favourable terms and pay.  

The TUC says these are “persistent barriers at work” which “hold back” BME workers across different roles and occupations, leaving disproportionate numbers of BME workers stuck in low-paid jobs, with limited rights and on precarious contracts which mean they can find themselves out of work without notice. 

Recent TUC polling revealed around half (49%) of BME workers said they had experienced at least one of the following forms of discrimination at work: 

  • 1 in 7 (14%) BME workers reported facing unfair criticism in the last five years.   

  • 1 in 9 (11%) said they were given an unfair performance assessment.    

  • 1 in 13 (8%) told the TUC they were unfairly disciplined at work.   

  • 1 in 14 (7%) said they have been subjected to excessive surveillance or scrutiny.     

  • 1 in 8 (12%) BME workers said they were denied promotions.   

  • 1 in 8 (12%) BME workers reported being given harder or less popular work tasks than white colleagues.  

  • 1 in 11 (9%) told the TUC they had their requests for training and development opportunities turned down. 

Government action needed 

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

  • Ban the abusive use of zero-hours contracts by giving workers the right to a contract reflecting their normal hours of work and ensure all workers receive adequate notice of shifts, and compensation when shifts are cancelled at short notice. 

  • Introduce fair pay agreements to raise the floor of pay and conditions in sectors blighted by insecure work. 

  • Crack down on bogus self-employment by introducing a statutory presumption that all individuals will qualify for employment rights unless the employer can demonstrate that they are genuinely self-employed.   

  • End the two-tier workforce and reform the rules on employment status to ensure that all workers benefit from the same employment rights, including statutory redundancy pay, protection from unfair dismissal, family-friendly rights, sick pay and rights to flexible working. 

  • Give workers a day one right to flexible working – not just a right to request. 

  • Establish a comprehensive ethnicity monitoring system covering mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, recruitment, retention, promotion, pay and grading, access to training, performance management and discipline and grievance procedures. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “No matter your background, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work.  

“But too many Black and ethnic minority workers are trapped in low-paid, insecure jobs with limited rights and protections, and treated like disposable labour. 

“The massive and disproportionate concentration of BME workers in insecure work – like in the gig economy – is structural racism in action.  

“Across the labour market, and at every stage, BME workers face discrimination and persistent barriers at work.  

“From not getting the job despite being qualified for the role, to being passed over for promotion, to being unfairly disciplined at work.  

“These barriers lead to stark inequalities – and it’s why we’re seeing BME workers disproportionately in the worst jobs with the worst pay and conditions. 

“It’s time to end the scourge of insecure work once and for all – that's how we start to tackle the discrimination that holds BME workers back. 

“That means banning exploitative zero hours contracts. It means delivering fair pay agreements to lift pay and standards across whole industries. And it means placing a duty on employers to report their ethnicity pay gap and take action to close it.”  

Editors note

The total number in ‘insecure work’ includes: 

(1) agency, casual, seasonal and other workers, but not those on fixed – term contracts   

(2) workers whose primary job is a zero-hours contract 
To note - data on temporary workers and zero-hour workers is taken from the Labour Force Survey. Double counting has been excluded.  

(3) self-employed workers who are paid below 66% of median earnings – defined as low pay.   

The data on the low paid self-employed is from the Family Resources Survey 2021/22 and commissioned by the TUC from Landman Economics. The Family Resources Survey suggests that fewer people are self-employed than the Labour Force Survey. And the data from the Family Resources survey looks at from age 18+. This year the methodology for insecure work is slightly different to previous years – the data is consistent from 2011 to 2022. For 2011 the low paid self employment data we use is from the Family Resources Survey 2010/11 and use the median pay for that year to work out low pay.  

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