The Department for Work and Pensions recently revealed that ethnic
minorities are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts, with 45 percent of Afro-Caribbean’s currently out of work. Studies show that even those who have attended and graduated from university are struggling to find work to kick-start their careers. They also reveal that black graduates are three times more likely to be jobless six months after graduating.
As disturbing as these figures are, for the most part they are not too surprising. Unemployment, especially in the case of young black men aged between 16 and 24, is something that the black community has been dealing with and fighting against for many years. Black students and graduates in particular worry about their career prospects, with some even contemplating moving to their countries of origin, believing that it would be easier for them there. In 2010, the Institute of Public Policy Research, alongside Elevation Networks conducted research into the experiences and expectations of black students and found that 60 percent believed that they would be unemployed 6 months after graduation, 68 percent expected to earn less than £25,000 in their first graduate role and that ‘many believed that they would face discrimination when trying to pursue careers in the legal services, media, fashion and financial industries’.
This issue seems to stem from a plethora of ill-addressed problems; one of the most obvious being institutional racism, where something as seemingly innocuous as your name may prevent you from getting a job. Indian-American actor and civil servant Kal Penn (born Kalpen Suresh Mudi) tested this theory by using his anglicised alias when applying for jobs and found that his call-back rate rose by 50 percent. While we would all like to believe that racism in our society no longer exists or is at least receding, stories like this and many others like it highlight the fact that racism or at least racial stereotyping is still ingrained in the fibre of our society. The truth is, we all hold prejudices, some of which we may be unaware of, and many of which are perpetuated by the often stereotypical images that the various media institutions continue to propagate. The problem arises when these prejudices begin to have a negative impact on the economic and social wellbeing of various groups. This coupled with a lack of information, experience and, as some may argue, role models, combine to exacerbate the growing problem of black and ethnic minority unemployment and put young black men and women at a disadvantage when comes to getting a job.
In spite of the disconcerting figures, there are still many young black people who have managed to beat the odds and are moving forward in their chosen careers, some even starting up their own businesses. In addition, many initiatives have been introduced as a way to combat unemployment in ethnic minority groups. Within the publishing industry, the UK Arts Council-funded EQUIP (Equality in Publishing), founded in 2004 and managed by City University London, ‘aims to create a network of businesses with a commitment to equality and diversity in publishing’. Elevation Networks, a youth employment charity, aims to help young people from ethnic minority groups improve their potential employability by working with companies to provide training and job opportunities and has over 8000 members. Hopefully, these initiatives will continue to help ethnic minorities to get into work and have better employment and career prospects despite the worrying figures.