27 Apr

Improving employment opportunities for ethnic minorities in Wales

Non-white groups in Wales have persistently higher unemployment rates than the White Welsh group, in a context where unemployment in Wales is relatively high compared to other parts of the UK. Why is this the case? What changes could bring about a more level playing field in the labour market?

These were some of the questions debated in a series of roundtables organised by Egino, working with the People & Work Unit, and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to discuss the JRF Viewpoint Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales.

Higher risk groups

Some groups are at particular risk, e.g. Bangladeshi men are over 7 times more likely to be in low-paid jobs than otherwise comparable White men.

Being female is a major risk factor: In Wales, more than 50% of women from ethnic minorities are projected to remain unemployed up to 2020.

Christine O’Byrne, Policy and Research Lead at Chwarae Teg, the Welsh charity which promotes women’s progress in the workplace, stressed that gender is central to tackling poverty: “Women are more likely to be in poverty than men and we know that women face multiple disadvantage, so as a woman you would be disadvantaged in the economy, and as a woman from an ethnic minority group you’d be even more so. A lot of work needs to be done.”

She identified public procurement as a tool for influencing employers and their recruitment practices: “There’s a lot of discrimination that goes on in recruitment and much more positive action could be taken that will help women in general and particularly women from minority ethnic groups to do well in the workplace.”

Low-paid sectors

Dr Rachel Bowen, Policy Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, drew attention to the tendency for certain ethnic groups to cluster in traditional, often low-paid sectors and occupations. This explains some differences in earnings as well as income for people starting their own businesses: “We need to be sure that people are choosing to start businesses that best suit their skills, their ambitions, rather than going into something that seems appropriate to their particular ethnic background or their gender. We know that, from the research people tend to concentrate in occupations that are traditional to their particular background. We need to challenge that so that everybody can achieve their true potential.”

Practical proposals

Practical solutions were the main focus of discussion throughout the roundtable series. Ideas flowed – ideas like:

  • Working with major employers to open up opportunities, as the Ethnic Youth Support Team is doing in Swansea.
  • Ring-fencing opportunities in publicly funded contracts so that people with the skills can get a better look-in locally.
  • Supporting small businesses willing to offer work placements.
  • Persuading City Regions to incorporate good practice at an early stage of development.

Ali Abdi, Community Partnerships manager for Grangetown Community Gateway, was particularly keen on proposals for working directly with individuals to overcome barriers and to address inequalities in recruitment: “… looking at name-blind and address-blind applications to make employment processes more equal … putting pressure on big employers to have more positive recruitment processes, so they address their BME issues and can have a more diverse workforce.”

Over-arching issues

Big, over-arching issues also generated debate including, of course, racism and discrimination, which continue to be negative factors; there was also concern that racism has become islamophobia.

There was wide agreement that legislation and strategies are not making a sufficient discernible difference. Do policies just need more “teeth”? Or is the answer a Welsh Government action plan to tackle employment barriers?

Action and action planning – this theme emerged again and again whatever topic was under consideration in the roundtables which discussed the analysis and proposals in the JRF Viewpoint Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales.

For more about the issues debated in the roundtables see this and our other  podcasts and blogs.

JRF Viewpoint: Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales Viewpoint authors: Anna Nicholl, Chris Johnes and Duncan Holtom

Print copies are also available, in English and Welsh, from [email protected]

Blog author: Lila Haines, Egino

Note: This blog represents the author’s views and interpretation, and not the position of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation or any other organisation or individual cited.

25 Apr

Ending poverty linked to ethnicity in Wales

A recent series of roundtables  involving Welsh NGOs, academics and local and national government officials debated a vital issue that has fallen off the radar: the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) Viewpoint Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales identifies the causes of inequalities linked to ethnicity in Wales and proposes a set of actions to break these links.

With JRF support, and working with the People and Work Unit, Egino organised a series of roundtables to consider the findings and proposals. The wide range of participants welcomed the opportunity to debate the evidence and make proposals for future action. This blog and the accompanying podcast give a taste of that debate.

Aspiration for change

Ali Abdi, Community Partnerships manager at the Grangetown Community Gateway, Cardiff, was struck by the flow of ideas and aspiration for change: “There were lots of people here wanting to give their personal views and experiences from their workplace about inequalities in Wales about different ethnic groups. I think particularly what struck me was the aspiration, to want to change.”

Dr Rachel Bowen, Policy Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, thought it was really positive to see that change is possible as demonstrated in the attainment levels of people from different ethnic backgrounds.” But she cautioned against simplistic solutions, about thinking that there will be an automatic reduction in poverty if everybody gets better skills, and flagged up issues in the small business sector.

Mind the gender gap

In Wales, the employment rate for women from ethnic minorities is projected to remain below 50% up to 2020. Christine O’Byrne, Policy and Research Lead for Chwarae Teg, the Welsh charity which has been promoting women’s progress in the workplace since 1992, expressed particular concern about this gender gap: “Gender is central to tackling poverty. Women are more likely to be in poverty than men and we know that women face multiple disadvantage, so as a woman you would be disadvantaged in the economy, and as a woman from an ethnic minority group you’d be even more so.”

From data to intervention

Dr Richard Gale, a lecturer in human geography at Cardiff University, was struck by how the Viewpoint explored the existing evidence base and used it to look at the connections between problems: “When we move into thinking about where and when to intervene, the question emerges: where do you intervene in a particular problem to help create more positive pathways and transition? So I think it was useful to start with the data in the report and then think through the next steps from that.”

For more about the issues debated in the roundtables you can listen to the accompanying podcast, download the Viewpoint, or email Egino.

 

JRF Viewpoint: Breaking the links between poverty and ethnicity in Wales
Viewpoint authors: Anna Nicholl, Chris Johnes and Duncan Holtom

Print copies are also available, in English and Welsh, from [email protected]

Blog author: Lila Haines

Note: These are the author’s views and interpretation, and not the position of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation or any other organisation or individual cited.