As the USA celebrates Black Business Month, we take a look at some concerning trends in ethnic diversity and unemployment here in the UK.
According to the 2011 census’ data on ethnicity, 3.01% of the UK’s population is black. Similarly, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 2.9% of people in the UK possessing a higher education qualification are black.
So far, so good, you may say. All looking suitably proportionate. But, what happens when we delve into the story behind ethnicity and unemployment rates? Well, sadly, that’s not such a happy tale.
The youth (16-24 year old) unemployment rate among people of black ethnic origin is 32%, versus only 16% for those of white ethnic background. And the overall figures for UK unemployment, irrespective of age, show a 15% rate of unemployment in the black community, compared to 6% among white people. (Dar & Mirza-Davies, ‘Unemployment by Ethnic Background’, March 2015).
Of course figures will be interpreted differently, depending on which politician you ask, but even allowing for an inevitable element of spin doctoring, what stares us in the face is that the black community is being disproportionately affected, whilst the white community makes hay. Add to this the fact that, since the start of the last coalition government, there’s been a 50% rise in ethnic minority unemployment across the 16-24 year old age bracket.
If these trends continue, the long-term prognosis isn’t great. One third of today’s black 16-24 year olds are struggling to get their foot on the employment ladder, and will bear the burden of making ends meet with limited or no income. The repercussions will be felt not only by them in the present day, but also by their offspring, whose chances and opportunities will also be harder to come by as a result.
And at the more senior end of the employment spectrum, it looks as if there’s still progress to be made in city boardrooms, where two out of three FTSE 100 companies still have an all-white board.
On a more positive note, it seems that entrepreneurs within the black community contribute a whopping £10billion to the UK economy … none too shabby, considering that they make up such a small percentage of the national demographic.
There are some shining examples out there. Take Tim Campbell MBE, for example. Probably best recognised as the winner of BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, his achievements did not stop there. After joining Lord Alan Sugar at Amstrad, he went on to found the Bright Ideas Trust, a charitable social enterprise which encourages young budding entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds to start business ventures, by giving them greater access to the necessary financial, education and advisory resources. In 2012 his achievements were recognised when he was awarded an MBE.
Very recently Vanessa Kingori, the first black person to achieve the role of Publisher in Conde Nast’s 100 year UK history (Publisher – GQ Style, and Associate Publisher – Fashion of GQ) was named as one of the 20 Most Influential Black Britons under 40 years old in the 6th annual Powerlist Magazine, 2013. She is also the youngest person currently in the role of Publisher.
In October, Tim and Vanessa will form part of a Judging Panel for the Black British Business Awards, commemorating the achievement of some of the UK’s finest black talent – both rising stars and established success stories. With examples such as theirs, isn’t it time that Great Britain plc started to embrace the diversity that the UK has to offer? People of black ethnic origin may make up a relatively small proportion of our population, but, like all other ethnic minority groups, they stand to make a significant contribution to the talent pool. Bring on the inspiration of the Black British Business Awards in October – best of luck to all the nominees!