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BAME workers suffer biggest financial hit from Covid-19

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02/07/2020
Workers from black and ethnic minority groups are more likely to suffer financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a national charity reveals.

A survey run by poverty charity Turn2us revealed that 58% of BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) workers have had their employment affected since the start of the pandemic, compared to 47% of white workers.

Bangladeshi workers are most affected with 80% reporting a change in their employment circumstances. This compares with 63% of black African or black British workers, 58% recorded for Pakistani workers and 55% of the UK’s Indian population.

One of the reasons given for the economic inequality is that 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.

Further, 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 said they will have to fall back on the welfare state. However, only 10% of white respondents said they will have to make a benefits claim.

The survey of 2,064 people also revealed that women across all ethnicities have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus, compared to men.

Turn2us found 52% of women have seen their employment affected as a result of the health crisis, 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.

The charity’s data also revealed that the ‘white other’ category of workers (excludes white British) who have lost income are at greater risk of defaulting on their rent or mortgage (29%), followed by those of Pakistani (24%) or Bangladeshi origin (20%).

‘Coronavirus does discriminate’

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.”

‘Minority groups more vulnerable to the economic brunt of Covid-19’

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.”

NHS figures highlight the death rate among those from BAME backgrounds is more than double that of those who identify as white, for example. Figures from the Office for National Statistics also revealed that 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 is due to be published shortly.

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