18 Feb

Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity – Wales must act

A new JRF Viewpoint, Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales, reveals that stark inequalities linked to ethnicity are set to continue to 2022 and beyond if action isn’t taken now. But, it argues, this is far from inevitable.

Wales can break the link between poverty and ethnicity, is the key message, but only if there is strong leadership and action starts now.

The Viewpoint identifies the causes of inequalities linked to ethnicity in Wales and proposes a set of actions to break these links. Public policy, local services, employer behaviour and support for new migrants can all make a difference.

Written by Egino and The People and Work Unit, and published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the Viewpoint draws on a wealth of research on poverty and ethnicity that has been conducted by JRF’s Poverty and Ethnicity programme.

The problems are clear but vary across Wales

Current and projected links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales are clear, but vary considerably across places and over time – and gender: being female is a major risk factor:

  • In Wales, the employment rate for women from ethnic minorities is projected to remain below 50% throughout 2012 – 2020.

The proportion of ethnic minority people in poverty is higher than the majority White population, with some groups at particular risk.

  • The incidence of poverty in the Asian group is estimated to be twice that of the White majority.
  • Bangladeshis and Pakistanis tend to be the most disadvantaged across a variety of indicators.
  • Bangladeshi men are over 7 times more likely to be in low-paid jobs than otherwise comparable White men.
  • The unemployment rate in the Caribbean group in Wales is almost twice that of the White majority.

Racism? Or the wrong kind of jobs?

Racism and discrimination continue to be negative factors and efforts to address them remain key. But there are also other factors which may have been less well understood that can help to focus effort effectively.

Differences in earnings, for example, are the result of the concentration of certain ethnic groups in low-paid sectors and occupations. When doing the same work, employees tend to be paid roughly the same, regardless of ethnicity. Addressing the concentration of certain ethnic groups in particular low-paid occupations should be a priority for public policy.

Social networks: help or hindrance?

Friendships, the way we care for loved ones and informal social networks can make a difference to whether a person is more likely to live in poverty or earn a good living.

This is in part about the way information and advice circulates informally. Understanding this can provide important insights into how public services can better engage with our diverse population.

The keys to action

The Viewpoint argues that action is needed across the public sector, and also by employers, businesses, third-sector groups, trade unions and citizens themselves. They recommend five key approaches that should have an impact, whilst also being cost effective:

  • engage
  • integrate
  • intervene early and prevent
  • shape workplace and labour market activity
  • demand and use evidence.

Identifying the next steps

With support from JRF, Egino and the People and Work Unit are convening a series of roundtable events to consider the Viewpoint’s proposals, as follows:

1. National policy implications

Tuesday 15 March 2016, 11:00-13:00 [Tea/coffee from 10:45]

Venue: Culture and Media Centre, Loudoun Square, Cardiff CF10 5HW

2. Work, ethnicity and poverty in Wales

Monday 4 April 2016 – 14:00-16:00 [Tea/coffee from 13:45]

Venue: EYST, Units B & C, 11 St Helen Road, Swansea SA1 4AB

3. Education, ethnicity and poverty in Wales

Wed 6 April 2016, 14:00-16:00 [tea/coffee from 13:45]

Venue: Culture and Media Centre, Loudoun Square, Cardiff CF10 5HW

Please register by emailing [email protected]