Sandra Kerr OBE, National Director, Race for Opportunity
This week George Osborne delivered his final Budget of this Parliament, which was peppered with comments on a ‘Budget that works for you’: the highest ever numbers of people in work, making work pay and all being in this together. Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics published its latest employment figures, and for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, it paints a bleak picture. Overall unemployment currently stands at 5.6 per cent; this has fallen since 2010, which is a positive. However, for many BAME groups it is at least double that – ranging from 10.3 per cent for Bangladeshi, 12 per cent mixed race, 13.9 per cent Black African/Caribbean to 14.3 per cent for Pakistani.
This gap has been there for over 20 years, and yet no action has been taken by successive governments to address it. But it shows that now is the time for politicians of all parties to make a serious commitment to tackling the issue of BAME unemployment – because doing nothing hasn’t worked.
We know that employers have been making progress on increasing BAME representation within their workforces. Our 2014 Gender and Race Benchmark set out the steps that organisations with similar rates of conversion from application to hire for BAME and white candidates are taking: using a variety of recruitment sources, targeting diverse candidates at recruitment fairs, mandating unconscious bias training for all those involved in recruitment, and having ethnically diverse recruitment panels where possible. Since 2012 we have seen an increase in unconscious bias training for recruiters and the number of organisations ensuring ethnically diverse recruitment panels has almost doubled. I hope other employers will implement these examples within their own organisations and send a strong message that having a workforce that reflects the clients, customers and communities they serve is important to them.
There have been positive steps from government following our ‘Race at the Top’ report last year – ‘and race’ has been added to the UK Corporate Governance Code and both the Coalition and the Opposition have pledged a Davies-style review into BAME representation on FTSE 100 boards. But there is still more to be done, particularly at lower levels. Whichever happens after May 7th, I would like to see a focus on BAME unemployment and come from with a targeted action plan to finally close the gap – because we can only solve this problem by working together.