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Black and minority ethnic (BME) women are around twice as likely as white workers to be employed in insecure jobs, according to a new study published by the TUC today (Wednesday).

The analysis shows that around 1 in 8 (12.1%) BME women working in the UK are employed in insecure jobs compared to 1 in 16 (6.4%) white women and 1 in 18 (5.5%) white men. The TUC says that many of these roles are in vital front-line services like health and social care.

Put at extra risk

The TUC says that during the pandemic BME staff have been at higher risk of Covid-19 exposure and job loss.

The union body argues that insecure contracts make it harder for workers to assert their rights for a safe workplace, to shield if they – or someone they live with – has a health condition that puts them at higher risk, or to take time off for childcare responsibilities if schools or childcare providers close.

Workplace racism and sexism

Earlier this year an ICM survey for the TUC revealed the daily experiences of racism and sexism for BME workers.

Almost half (45%) of BME women told the TUC they had been singled out for harder or less popular tasks at work, around one third (31%) reported being unfairly passed over for or denied a promotion at work, and 3 in 10 (30%) said they had experienced verbal abuse at work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity at work and to be paid a fair wage. But coronavirus has exposed huge inequalities in our labour market.

“BME women are far more likely to be stuck in low-paid and high-risk frontline jobs. And all too often they are on contracts with few rights and no sick pay.

“Being trapped in insecure work has exposed BME women to extra risk during this crisis, with many losing their lives. That is not right.

“Ministers must step up and take bold action to tackle structural racism and sexism in our economy – and in wider society.”

The TUC has today published a new briefing paper BME women and work, to prompt discussion and urgent action from employers, trade unions and government. The TUC will be engaging with BME women to ensure that their voices lead the way forward.

Last month the TUC launched a new anti-racism task force. A group of senior leaders from across the trade union movement and civil society led by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach will investigate the systemic discrimination BME workers face and develop an action plan for change across UK workplaces – and within unions themselves.

Editors note

- Black women and work is available at:
- Insecure work by gender

Ethnicity and gender

White male

White female

BME male

BME female

Insecure employees





Low paid self-employed





Total insecure workers





Proportion of employees in insecure jobs





- Insecure work: 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, (3) self-employed workers who are paid less than the National Living Wage (£8.72). Data on temporary workers and zero-hour workers is taken from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) (Q4 2019). Double counting has been excluded. Low-paid self-employment: The minimum wage for adults over 25 is currently £8.72 and is also known as the National Living Wage. The number of working people aged 25 and over earning below £8.72 is 1,810,000 from a total of 3,950,000 self-employed workers in the UK. The figures come from analysis of data for 2018/19 (the most recent available) in the Family Resources Survey and were commissioned by the TUC from Landman Economics. 

- ICM survey: ICM interviewed a representative sample of 1,253 British Black and minority ethnic workers online (18+) between 4-9 March 2020. Participants were working full-time or part-time and were either in work currently or had been out of work for less than four years. The data has been weighted by gender.

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