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Black women twice as likely to be jobless than white women

WORRYING: Black women are more than twice as likely to find themselves out of work than their white counterparts

BLACK WOMEN are more than twice as likely to find themselves out of work than their white counterparts, a new study has revealed.

The results of a cross-party parliamentary inquiry, led by Labour MP David Lammy, has uncovered that discrimination and other barriers to employment had caused the worrying disparity among ethnic minorities in the UK.

It found that 17.7 percent of black women were unemployed compared to only 6.8 percent of white women, a gap that has remained constant for black women since the 1980s.

The numbers were more shocking for 20.5 percent of jobless Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.

Racial discrimination in the recruitment process was found to have an impact on these unemployment levels, with women reporting concerns at application and interview stages.

During the inquiry Professors Anthony Heath and Yaojun Li of Oxford and Manchester universities, respectively, estimated that 25 percent of the ethnic minority unemployment rate for both men and women could be explained by prejudice and racial discrimination.

The report also highlighted government research from 2008, which found that those with an African or Asian sounding name needed to send twice as many job applications to secure an interview.

A black unemployed woman from Tottenham, north London, revealed: “At an interview there were two of us going for the same job, me and a white girl. The interviewer called my name ‘Lucy Smith ’(not real name) and looked at the white girl. I said ‘sorry darling, I am over here’ and her face just dropped. She was very cold throughout the interview. All because my name did not fit the image I was giving them.”

Discrimination based on religious dress was also uncovered, especially towards women who wear the hijab (headscarf). It was found that those who removed their hijab for interviews were more successful than similarly qualified women who did not, and some women interviewed reported removing their headscarf in order to find work.

Commenting on the findings, David Lammy said: “All unemployment is equally tragic but women from ethnic minority backgrounds face a greater challenge to enter the labour market than most. Not only do many employers continue to discriminate against women that they worry will leave employment to start a family, they are also victims of ongoing prejudice against ethnic minority women in recruitment.

"During our investigation we heard from countless women who changed their name or their appearance, either because they thought it would stand them in better stead in looking for a job or, in the worst cases, because prospective employers specifically asked them to do so.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence, the unnaturally high unemployment rates of women in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities has been given fleeting attention. This has massive implications for families and society as a whole – particularly given the large numbers for Black families where the mother is the sole breadwinner and the high poverty rates of Pakistani and Bangladeshi families”.

* The inquiry took place between July and November 2012. Written evidence was received by 27 organisations, and oral evidence was received by 11 individuals and organisations. A number of unemployed women were also interviewed in Manchester, London and Oldham.

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