What can we do to fight race disparity in work and education?

 In Blog, CEO's blog

This week the Government will publish its audit into race disparity in public service outcomes. This is the audit which was ordered by the Prime Minister just over a year ago and which I blogged about at the time – anticipating that it would show significant disparities in health (particularly mental health) and employment. Since the audit was ordered we have seen publication of report after report showing how people from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds do not receive the same start in life, career earnings or good health as others. The reports by Baroness MacGregor- Smith on race in the workplace; the CIM report looking at progression for black managers; and the IFS and LSE  reports showing earnings disparities are four to name. Then there has been the Lamy report into the criminal justice system.

Last week, in anticipation of the publication of the audit, the Resolution Foundation published a helpful summary of the outcomes from higher education (‘Black and ethnic minority workers needs a bigger living standards reward for their astounding progress in getting degrees’). This showed how the proportion of workers from black and ethnic minorities who hold degrees has risen steeply between 1999 and 2017. But this has not been matched by corresponding and proportionate increases in employment and earnings. For example, the Resolution Foundation report shows the gap in employment between white and Bangladeshi graduates age 16-64 is 10 percentage points; and for those age 16-34 (students excluded) it is yet higher, at 15 percentage points. We at ELBA have been highlighting for some time the experience of young black male graduates who are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

When it comes to earnings there is a pay gap for all groups of ethnic minority workers. For example, the pay gap between white male graduates and Bangladeshi male and female graduates is 18-19%.

So I think we can agree with the Prime Minster when she predicts that the report published this week will make uncomfortable reading. It will celebrate the huge increase in participation in higher education and achievement of higher level qualifications by people from BAME backgrounds. But that is a hollow achievement if they are then denied access to careers and earnings that their hard work deserves.

How do we change this? By campaigning and pressing for policy changes for sure. By working with employers to make recruitment practices more egalitarian and which select on potential rather than background. And then once in work supporting development and progression programmes which get people from disadvantaged backgrounds through the promotion ceiling. Many ELBA partner businesses are already leaders in this – it takes commitment from the top and sustained internal pressure to convince hiring managers that there might be a better way.

We also change this person by person. It’s a business no-brainer. Employers want and need talent. These young people are an untapped source of talent. Put the two together. That’s what we do at London Works, ELBA’s diversity and inclusion recruitment agency. Every which way we can, from graduate placement programmes, student associateships, temp and permanent jobs, we will get talent in front of employers which will delight them – and maybe surprise them too. We hope the publication of the audit this week will add evidence to the case we are making.

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