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Is all equal in the world of work? Samantha Mangwana looks at new government report

By Principal Lawyer, Employment & Partnership

A major report on race-tainted unemployment released last week following a parliamentary inquiry has exposed a disturbing combination of race and sexism keeping Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women out of employment.

The scale of disadvantage is devastating - up to 3 times the level of unemployment for Bangladeshi and Pakistani women compared to white women (it is also more than double for Black women). And this is not mere coincidence - with researchers estimating that 25% of ethnic minority unemployment is down to prejudice and race discrimination - this is not some secret shame of the past, but an urgent problem that must be tackled now.  

On a personal note, born in the UK as a second generation Indian, with a name that I always thought sounded more African, I was particularly saddened to read that those with African or Asian sounding names needed to send twice as many job applications to secure an interview. This was I had hoped the stuff of my parent's generation's over-anxious fears when I was growing up - not something still to hold us back in the twenty-first century.

I like to think of modern Britain as inclusive, and diverse in cultures. The London Olympics this summer showcased to the world how international we are, something I enjoyed feeling proud of. Yet, even though direct race discrimination has been unlawful - with no defence - in this country throughout my lifetime, it is an alarming blow indeed to learn that the unemployment gap for black women (compared to white women) has remained constant since the 1980s, and actually worsened for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women since 2004. This has simply got to stop. I hope that today's report jolts a reaction from those in a position to make a difference. We can't expect out-of-work job applicants individually to take employers to tribunals - that's not the solution. The current government has decimated the budget of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, originally set up specifically to tackle this kind of discrimination.  Yet, it has lost two-thirds of its staff and 60% of its budget in the last year. Statistics like these demonstrate how sorely urgent action is needed.