Search
Search type

School of Social Sciences

Improving employment outcomes for ethnic minority groups

Our work has provided a detailed understanding of the extent of ethnic differences in labour market outcomes, contributing to an evidence base which has informed policy at the Department for Work and Pensions and numerous local authorities, and helped to shape the 2010 regional economic strategy of the North West Development Agency.

Job centre
Ethnic differences in labour market outcomes vary substantially between different non-white groups

Devising appropriate policies to provide fair opportunities for all ethnic groups requires an understanding of the underlying processes that lead to these outcomes.

Many black and minority ethnic (BME) groups experience labour market disadvantage. Through a series of policy reports, research undertaken at The University of Manchester has informed a number of strategies that seek to address gaps in ethnic minority employment by local authorities and their regional partners.

In particular, a spotlight is placed upon the importance of equipping under-employed groups with the skills required to access employment opportunities. 

A report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘Ethnic Minorities in the Labour Market: Dynamics and Diversity’ revisited this issue, bringing it once again to the attention of policymakers.

The report and associated work was featured in the press, notably The Economist, and on radio and television, including the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ series.

On the back of this positive coverage, Clark and Drinkwater were approached by the UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions and the Local Government Innovation and Development Agency (IDeA) to write a ‘how-to guide’ for economic development officers at local authorities, which would assist them in crafting evidence based policy responses to the increases in ethnic minority unemployment, triggered by the recession.

From late 2009 to early 2010 the guide was promoted at a series of regional workshops (for Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships), reaching a total of 439 delegates.

The specific impact of the research can be traced through publications and strategy documents, produced by local and regional policymakers. Two key examples are:

  • The North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) report on ‘Unlocking the Potential of the BME Population’ (2010) used the ‘how-to guide’ as part of the evidence base for its recommendations on policy interventions to support BME groups. This report also informed the NWDA’s Regional Strategy (RS2010), which in turn fed into the strategic document ‘Future North West’, adopted in August 2011 by the North West Regional Leaders Board. Future North West notes the importance of equipping under-employed groups, such as BME communities, with the skills required to access employment opportunities. The former Head of Strategy at the NWDA, who wrote RS2010, acknowledged that without the work of the IDeA guide which informed the ‘Unlocking the Potential of the BME Population’, this demographic group may not have been featured in RS2010 or Future North West… I was careful to explicitly specify ethnic minority groups as an important part of the overall imperative for the region to create more employment opportunities and raise employment rates”.
  • Wigan Council’s ‘Worklessness Strategy’ (April 2009) resulted in the development of an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme, to help individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds into training, volunteering and employment. The justification for this approach was based upon evidence concerning employment differentials between ethnic groups, taken directly from the ‘how-to guide’.

Our research

There has traditionally been little econometric analysis, based on large-scale micro data, of the earnings and employment outcomes of ethnic minority groups in the UK. This research continues to provide a detailed understanding of the extent of ethnic differences in labour market outcomes, in particular variations by both detailed ethnic group and gender, as well as across the paid and self-employed sectors. Among the main insights from this work are:

  • Ethnic differences in labour market outcomes vary substantially between different non-white groups, and these differences have implications for how public policy deals with ethnic labour market disadvantage.
  • High self-employment rates, amongst non-whites, may not be a sign of economic health.
  • Patterns of ethnic disadvantage are gendered in ways that reflect cultural differences between groups.
  • A renewed focus on interactions between geographical concentration and ethnic disadvantage, as well as how patterns of ethnic disadvantage change over time.

Key people

Further information