The TUC found that, during the pandemic, unemployment rates for BME workers has risen at twice the speed of the unemployment rate for white workers.

A new analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that, between the final quarter of 2019 and the final quarter of 2020, BME unemployment has risen from 5.8 per cent to 9.5 per cent – an increase of almost two-thirds.

In comparison, for white workers, the unemployment rose from 3.4 per cent to 4.5 per cent which is an increase of under a third.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary for the TUC, stated that the pandemic had “held up a mirror to the structural racism in the labour market – and wider society”.

In addition to this, the research conducted by the TUC found that BME unemployment rates are now exceeding worst-case projections made by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Previously, the OBR predicted that unemployment rates in the UK would peak to 7.5 per cent by the second quarter of 2021.

However, this research shows that this worst-case scenario has already been surpassed when analysing statistics regarding BME workers.

Specifically, the unemployment rate for Black African and Caribbean workers has risen to 13.8 per cent. This is over three times the rate for unemployment amongst white workers. In addition, one in 10 women from a BME background are now unemployed, showing that the pandemic has significantly impacted this group.

As such, the TUC have called on the Government to take action in the following areas:

  • Implementing in full the recommendations from the seven reports commissioned since 2010: Lammy, Angiolini, Williams (Windrush), McGregor-Smith, Kline, Parker and Timpson
  • Setting out a race equality strategy to guide the Covid-19 response
  • Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay reporting

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said:

BME workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19, losing their jobs twice as quickly as white workers.

And when BME workers have held on to their jobs, we know that they are more likely to be working in low-paid, insecure jobs that put them at greater risk from the virus.

This is evidence of the structural discrimination which has led to a disproportionate BME death rate from coronavirus.  This crisis has to be a turning point. As we emerge from the pandemic, we can’t allow these inequalities in our workplaces – and our society – to remain.

Ministers must stop delaying and challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people.

Chair of the TUC’s anti-racism task force, Dr Patrick Roach, said:

Racism is at work and it exists.

There is clear and compelling evidence demonstrating the need for concerted action to eradicate the prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage that continue to deny many Black workers the opportunity to secure and progress in decent jobs and careers.

The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for our economy, and especially for Black workers who are not only more likely to lose their jobs but also to die at work.

A national plan to tackle racial disparities in employment and in the labour market must also address the root causes and confront them head on.


*The TUC analysis was based on ONS statistics ‘Labour Market Status by Ethnic Group’ which was released in February 2021.