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Employers warned to adapt to a changing and diverse workforce

Employers and politicians have been warned to act now in adapting to the changing UK population over the next15 years.

A report from Race for Opportunity, entitled Race to the Future argues the challenge of ensuring equal employment opportunities for ethnic minorities is going to get even harder in the next 15 years.

Research published in July 2010 by the University of Leeds shows the make-up of the British population is expected to change substantially with predictions that more than one in five Britons will be an ethnic minority in 2051.

This is set against a widening ethnic minority employment gap with ethnic minorities’ proportionate share of jobs decreasing. Research undertaken by Race for Opportunity in 2009 showed that although Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals’ share of the total population had risen from 7.3% in 2000 to 10.3% at the end of 2007, its share of the employed population failed to match that increase, growing from 5.4% to only 8.5% over the same period.

The Race for Opportunity report maps out both worst and best case future scenarios for the UK. Illustrating the dire situation that lies ahead if no action is taken, the report argues that as the population grows and becomes more ethnically diverse, the danger is that employers will fail to find jobs for all groups in a roughly equal share. Beyond creating an even wider employment gap, this could have potentially detrimental consequences, such as high levels of deprivation in key areas where BAME communities are most concentrated.

The report points out that these expected changes in the population could prove a great opportunity for employers that are nimble enough to take advantage of them. In fact, ‘argues that this change can bring significant positive benefits to the nation both economically and socially.

The report highlights 15 recommendations for change for the coming 15 years; with one of the most important areas for organisations to focus on being recruitment. By ensuring they recruit from the widest pool of talent, organisations can not only be confident they are recruiting the best people for the job but will also find themselves better placed to market and sell to the increasingly sophisticated BAME consumer base, helping them to boost profits in the long term.

Sandra Kerr, national director of Race for Opportunity, said: "The changing population presents an immense opportunity if handled correctly by politicians, businesses and BAME workers. This report is a wake up call to businesses and all organisations in the UK to recognise that they need to radically rethink how they go about recruiting people to ensure that ethnic minority employment in the UK is representative of its population - no matter how much it continues to change."