Ethnic minority women face employment discrimination

Fri, 07/12/2012 - 12:56 -- nick

Some ethnic minority women are changing their names and removing hijabs when applying for jobs to beat discrimination, a parliamentary report by MPs and peers has found.

Many ethnic minority women experience unemployment at twice the average rate, and their levels of unemployment have failed to come down in decades.

The report, by the parliamentary group on race and community, suggests that a quarter of unemployment experienced by Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black British communities is due to prejudice and discrimination.

Some specific examples of discrimination and barriers cited included worsening attitudes by employers when they realised women with European names were black, some Muslim women taking off their hijabs to improve their chances of work, some being asked about their plans for marriage and children, and fewer ethnic minority women taking up free childcare places.

The report found: "Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are particularly affected, with 20.5% being unemployed compared to 6.8% of white women, with 17.7% of black women also being unemployed."

The report cited research from Professor Anthony Heath of Oxford University: "The unemployment rate of black women has remained at roughly double that of white women since 1972. There has been no decrease over time or over generations in ethnic minority unemployment rates overall (both men and women), and that the second generation still experience unemployment rates which are as high as those of the first generation."

Further research by Professor Yaojun Li found a similar picture for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women trying to find work: "After 1983 the unemployment rate of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women has remained consistently and substantially higher than the rate for white women."

The MPs said that governments had a role to play in improving this situation: "We believe that evidence shows that there are varied and complex barriers facing Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women which are different from those facing white women or ethnic minority men.

"Based on this, we would argue that the government's 'colour-blind' approach to tackling unemployment is not appropriate in dealing with the specific issues facing women from these groups."

Labour MP David Lammy, who chairs the all-party group, said: "It is staggering that in 21st century Britain there are women who felt they had to remove their hijab or change their name just to be able to compete on the same terms as other candidates when looking for jobs.

"All unemployment is tragic but we simply can no longer remain so casual about women that are simultaneously the victims of both sexism and racism when they are competing in the labour market. It has massive implications for families and society as a whole.

"Getting women into jobs is the best way to break families out of the poverty cycle so it is time for the government to make addressing this a priority."

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