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Coronavirus widens gap between black and white youth employment

Young black people are now three times more likely to be unemployed than young white people since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has seen unemployment rise across all ethnicities, yet the sharpest rise has been among young black people.

New research by think tank The Resolution Foundation found before the pandemic one in four (25%) black 16-to-24-year-olds were unemployed. Now the figure stands at 35%.

The unemployment rate for young white people is 13%, a three point increase from before the pandemic.

Sandra Kerr, race director at Business in the Community, said HR professionals are an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling racial inequalities in the workplace.

Referring to the Resolution Foundation report, she told HR magazine: “You know it’s a problem when 33% of black candidates see their ethnicity as a barrier to getting their next role, when only 1% of white applicants feel the same way. 

“HR consultants can help bridge the ethnicity gap by making diversity a key factor in recruitment and by monitoring each stage of the selection process.”

Young Asian people have also been badly affected by unemployment during the pandemic. Nearly one in four (24%) young people with an Asian background are currently unemployed

Trades Union Congress (TUC) anti-racism officer Lester Holloway told HR magazine that all young people need opportunities as they start out on their careers, no matter their ethnicity.

He said: “BME young workers have been hit hardest by job losses during the pandemic and faced additional obstacles because of their race. That’s an example of racial injustice.

“Ministers must stop delaying and challenge the structural racism and inequality that holds back BME people from such an early age.

“And they must start creating good new jobs so that all of our young people have a fulfilling future to look forward to. We cannot afford for another generation to be scarred by mass unemployment.”

Young people’s careers have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic as they are more like to work in sectors hit by the crisis, such as hospitality and leisure.

Overall, 16-to-24-year-olds have accounted for 57% of the fall in employment in the UK over the past year. 

In 2020, unemployment among people aged between 18 and 24 rose from 11.5% in Q2 (April-June) to 13.6% in Q3 (July-September), which represents the sharpest increase (a 2.1 point rise) since May 2009.

Kathleen Henehan, report author and senior research analyst at the Resolution Foundation, called on policy makers to reflect on the price younger generations have paid.

She said: “Young people have sacrificed their livelihoods in order to save the lives of others from COVID-19, and putting their careers back on track must be a priority for government in the months and years ahead.”