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BAME workers take biggest financial hit from coronavirus pandemic

  • 30/06/2020

Workers from black and ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by national poverty charity, Turn2us.

The research, which surveyed 2,064 people of working age across the UK, revealed how 58% of BAME workers have had their employment affected since the start of the pandemic, compared to 47% of White workers. People of Bangladeshi descent are most affected with 80% reporting a change in their employment circumstances, compared to 63% of Black African or Black British workers; 58% of those of Pakistani descent; and 55% of the UK’s Indian population.

Further analysis reveals that women across all ethnicities have been disproportionately affected, compared to men. Overall, 52% of women have seen their employment affected as a result of coronavirus, compared to 45% of men. This includes 70% of female Asian women; 55% of black women; and 51% of white women who have reported a loss in income or change to their employment situation.

Depsite what the employment figures show, the data also reveal how White ‘other’ (excludes White British) who have lost income are at greater risk of defaulting on their rent or mortgage (29%), closely followed by those of Pakistani (24%) or Bangladeshi origin (20%).

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “This crisis highlights the deep-rooted structural inequalities in our society and which are now being further exacerbated. Despite claims that coronavirus is the great equaliser, we know that it does indeed discriminate and it’s those people who were already struggling to stay afloat by who have been affected the most.  This includes people from BAME groups, who are most likely to be employed on zero hour contracts.

“Many of these inequalities have been aggravated by underinvestment in our social-security system. This means that countless individuals and families from disadvantaged groups have found the welfare safety net inadequate. We need to have a public conversation about how we can rebuild our economy; improve our social security system; and remove these inequalities from our labour market by making work fairer and giving all workers the rights and protections they deserve.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, Interim Director at the Runnymede Trust, said: “We may all be weathering the same storm during Covid-19, but we’re not in the same boat. This survey shows that the cumulative disadvantages of pre-existing poverty and racial inequalities have left ethnic minority groups much more vulnerable to the economic brunt of Covid-19.

“Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black African and Black Caribbean men are all much more likely to have had jobs in shutdown industries, partly because Bangladeshi men are concentrated in restaurant occupations and Pakistani men are concentrated in taxi driving and chauffeur occupations.

“Worse these disproportionate job and income losses will have a huge impact on families and children; child poverty is already at an all time high, with nearly half of black children and close to 60% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani children in poverty.

“The government need to immediately undertake an equality impact assessment on Covid-19 but also ascertain whether their existing Covid-19 social and economic policies are buffering ethnic minority groups from the brutal economic impact of Covid-19. There is still time for the government to intervene to save families from poverty and destitution.”

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said: “Our own research with the Fawcett Society and academics from UCL and QMUL showed that BAME women were reporting higher levels of anxiety than any other group and lower levels of life satisfaction during the pandemic. This new research shows one reason why – not only are BAME people disproportionately affected by the health impacts of Covid-19, they are being hit harder by impacts to employment and income.  It is crucial that the Government carries out and publishes meaningful equality impact assessments on the impact of both the virus itself and their policies in response to it.”

People from BAME communities – particularly workers of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian descent – are more likely to work in insecure or casual employment. This shows a strong correlation between falling income during the pandemic and ethnicity. Indeed, almost one in five Asian participants believe they will need to make a claim for Universal Credit or other benefits. One in six black respondents and one in seven mixed-race respondents say they too will have to fall back on the welfare state, although only 10% of white respondents will have to make a benefits claim.

NHS figures highlight an even greater problem in the wider community. The death rate among those from BAME backgrounds is more than double that of those who identify as white, for example. And, according to ONS figures, people from ethnic minorities who work in the health service are seven times more likely to die from coronavirus than their white colleagues.

A Public Health England report recently confirmed these statistics. A second report containing safeguarding proposals for BAME workers will be published this week.