Black people in the UK ‘more likely to be without work’ than those in the US

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There is a greater lack of workplace race equality in the UK than there is the US, especially during times of recession, new research has found.

A paper presented today (April 13th) at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Leeds claims that through successive governments “failing to protect minority ethnic groups” the unemployment rate among black people in the UK has risen significantly at times of economic hardship.

Presenting the paper, Yaojun Li, professor of sociology at Manchester University, told the conference that in the last three recessions, unemployment among black British men was up to 19 percentage points higher than among those in America, the Guardian reports.

After examining 2.7 million responses from three datasets in the UK and US, Professor Li found that black male unemployment reached 29 per cent in Britain in the early 1980s’ recession, 36 per cent in the early 1990s and 22 per cent in 2011.

The comparative figures for black men in the US were 22 per cent, 17 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.

A similar picture of inequality for black women in Britain was unveiled by the figures, said Professor Li, with unemployment among this demographic reaching 25 per cent, 26 per cent and 17 per cent in the three recessions, compared 20 per cent, 12 per cent and 13 per cent in the US.

“There is greater ethnic inequality in Britain than in the USA for both sexes … If you are black you are more likely to be without work in the UK,” he commented.

According to the professor, a key factor in explaining the disparity is the much more proactive approach to promoting race equality in the workplace by the US government compared to authorities in the UK.

Programmes such as affirmative action and the “federal procurement policy which requires institutions to have staff representative of the population” have “really helped reduce the unemployment rate among black people” in the US, he said.

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