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  • New TUC analysis of official statistics shows BME youth unemployment rate has increased at twice the speed of young white workers during the pandemic 

  • Union body calls on ministers to create good new jobs, extend and widen Kickstart scheme and boost universal credit 

The unemployment rate for young black and minority ethnic (BME) workers has risen at more than twice the speed of the unemployment rate for young white workers, according to new TUC analysis published today (Saturday). 

The analysis of ONS figures – published as the TUC’s young workers’ conference begins today – reveals that the unemployment rate for young BME people aged 16-24 years old soared from 18.2% to 27.3% between the final quarter of 2019 and the final quarter of 2020. This is a 50% increase in the rate over the period, and a rise of 9ppts. 

Over the same period the unemployment rate for young white workers rose from 10.1% to 12.4% – an increase of 22% of the original rate, or 2.3 percentage points. 

These unemployment figures measure the proportion of young people who want to work who are in a job, and do not include young people who are inactive such as students. They tell us that BME young people who choose to work, rather than study, have a more difficult time in the labour market than their white peers. 

Youth unemployment 

Previous TUC analysis found that young workers generally have suffered a bigger hit to their job prospects than any other age group. 

More young workers were made redundant during summer 2020 than in all of 2019. And the number of pay-rolled employees aged under 25 fell by 437,000 between February 2020 and February 2021. This accounts for 63% of the nearly 700,000 payroll jobs lost over the pandemic. 

The TUC says this is largely the result of Covid-19 hitting sectors of the economy where young people tend to work, such as accommodation and food services. 

But the union body is concerned that the disproportionate effect on young BME people is further evidence of racism within the labour market. 

Government action needed now 

The TUC is calling on the government to: 

  • Create good new jobs. We could create 1.8 million new jobs in the next two years in green transport and infrastructure, and by unlocking public sector vacancies. 

  • Improve and extend the Kickstart scheme. The scheme is not effective as it doesn’t guarantee a high-quality sustainable job on a decent wage for every young unemployed person. Ministers should also ensure that ethnic monitoring is built into the scheme so it is clear who is taking part and whether they are getting jobs at the end. In addition, Government should  encourage employers to use positive action measures permitted by the Equality Act.  

  • Give more financial support for people who have lost their jobs. Without a boost to universal credit, many will be pushed into poverty. 

  • Provide dedicated careers advice for young workers who have lost their jobs. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“Covid has removed any doubt that racism exists in our workplaces – and in wider society. And our new analysis shows that it starts as early as age 16. 

“All our young people need opportunities as they start out on their careers – but they’ve been hit hardest by job losses in the pandemic. And some are facing additional obstacles because of their race. That’s wrong. 

“Ministers must stop delaying and challenge the racism and inequality that holds back BME people from such an early age. And start creating good new jobs so that all of our young people have a fulfilling future to look forward to.” 

Chair of the TUC Young Workers Forum Alex Graham said:  

“Young workers have experienced first-hand the impact of the pandemic. Many have lost jobs and others are concerned that without help from government, they will be out of work too.  

“The disproportionate impact on young BME workers is another reminder that racism exists in the labour market as in wider society. More work is needed to tackle discrimination in the labour market and make racism it a thing of the past.  

“The government must act to protect and create jobs and provide careers advice to help young people find work. We’ll be talking at our conferences about the all the action needed to stop the mass unemployment of young workers.” 

Editors note

- The TUC young workers’ conference is online this year. It runs from today (Saturday 27 March) until tomorrow (Sunday). For more information please visit:  
- Youth unemployment stats for 16-24 year olds from the ONS Q4 2019 and Q4 2020 

Unemployment rate          



October-December 2019      



October-December 2020    






- Overall 580,000 young workers (aged 16-24) were unemployed in Q4 2020. 
- In January the TUC warned that BME employment had “plummeted” during the pandemic: 
- And in February, TUC analysis of official statistics showed that BME unemployment is rising twice as fast as white workers during pandemic:  
- TUC research on young workers is here:  
- For more information about the Kickstart scheme please visit:  
- The TUC has launched an anti-racism task force, chaired by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach, to tackle the structural racism with the labour market – and wider society. The task force will lead the trade union movement’s renewed campaign against racism at work. It will engage with Black workers across the UK to hear about their experiences. And it will produce recommendations on tackling structural racism in the UK, in workplaces and in unions themselves.

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