Young ethnic minorities continue to bear brunt of insecure work

Young people have swiftly returned to work since losing jobs in the pandemic, but many have had unequal opportunities when coming back to the workforce – or have fallen out of it altogether.

Research by the Resolution Foundation showed some disadvantaged groups have found themselves particularly at risk of only being able to find insecure jobs. 

More than a quarter (28%) of young people from an ethnic minority background who have returned to work after a period of worklessness, for example, find themselves in ‘atypical’ (insecure) employment, compared to 22% of young white people in the same situation.

Graduates were similarly eleven points more likely to have found a secure job than non-graduates.

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Most (76%) people between the ages 18-24 who were working before the pandemic but jobless during the winter lockdown have quickly returned to work.

These ‘returners,’ however, were significantly more likely to be in insecure employment (i.e. on a temporary contract, zero-hours contract, doing agency work or working variable hours).

A third (33%) of young ‘returners’ were in insecure work, compared to just 12% of those who were working throughout. 

Louise Murphy, economist at the Resolution Foundation, told HR magazine: “Having been hit hardest by lockdowns, young people have returned to work rapidly since last summer, and youth unemployment is now lower than it was pre-pandemic.

“This jobs recovery has been a triumph, but the risk of pandemic scarring has still not gone away for young people. 

“Those who stopped working during the crisis are more likely to have returned to insecure work, such as working on a zero-hours contract.”

Around 50,000 more young men are now outside of full-time education and economically inactive, around two for every one woman in the same situation.

Murphy added: “While less stark than the spectre of mass unemployment that many feared when COVID first arrived, the challenge of securing good quality work for young people remains a priority for policy makers as we move on from the pandemic.”

Speaking to HR magazine, the general secretary of the Trade Unions Congress Frances O’Grady said that while every worker deserves decent pay and job security, young people have had it tough.

“Young workers were already more likely to have low pay and insecure jobs before the pandemic. The situation looks even tougher for them in the recovery.”

She added: “The government has been promising an employment bill for several years now. 

“They must delay it no longer. We need a bill that bans zero-hour contracts and that strengthens the rights of all workers, no matter their age, to fair pay and conditions.”


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