Young BAME workers more likely to be in unstable work, research finds

Study prompts calls for government and employers to address ethnicity pay gaps

Younger black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers are more likely to work in precarious conditions, including on zero-hours contracts and having a second job, a study has found.

A survey of 7,700 young people in England showed that those with non-white backgrounds were 47 per cent more likely to be working on a zero-hours contract than their white counterparts.

BAME millennials were also 10 per cent more likely to work a second job than white young people, and 5 per cent more likely to be doing shift work.

The researchers, from Carnegie UK Trust, the University College London Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Operation Black Vote, have called on the government and employers to make ‘good work’ equally available to workers in BAME communities.

The report urged employers to carry out internal audits of race disparity in their organisations, highlighting that this could be done in collaboration with trade unions and race equality bodies. 

Conservative peer Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, author of the government’s 2017 review of race in the workplace, backed the report’s recommendations, including that ethnicity pay reporting legislation similar to the existing gender pay reporting rules be introduced. “Until organisations publish data and put plans in place to reduce pay gaps, nothing fundamentally changes. It is time for action rather than words,” she said.

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Commenting on the report, Sandra Kerr, race director at Business in the Community, said employers needed to start having constructive conversations and create action plans for change based on employee feedback.

Businesses needed to ensure BAME employees have access to “decent work” within their organisations, and they are addressing low pay and ethnicity and pay disparities, she added.

Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director of race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, said the disparities between different groups of young people was “sobering”.

“What you've got is racial disparities apparent, even in the early stages of their career,” she said. “If there are such stark racial disparities even at the age of 25, at the early stages of your career, then where's the social mobility promise?”

Haque, who spoke at the launch of the report, called on employers to “stop making excuses” when it comes to collecting data on ethnicity pay, and said most large employers “can figure out how to collect data on pay data on ethnicity instead of making excuses that it's too complex”.

The report also found young people in unstable employment suffered poorer mental health than those with better working conditions, which Lord Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, said further exacerbated the race penalty in the workplace. “It’s a double hit if you’re from a BAME community,” he said.

“This report must be a serious wake up call for the government, industry and our mental health practitioners... We can, however, turn this around, but we need collective leadership.”

The research analysed data from a study of a cohort of millennials born in 1989 and 1990 who were all surveyed at the age of 25.