A number of factors highlight the need to tackle race equality issues in health, employability and related keys areas to support greater inclusion and wellbeing.
COVID 19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has brought health inequalities to the forefront more than ever before. COVID-19 has affected members of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities at a shockingly disproportionate level. Deaths amongst people in the South Asian ethnic group in Scotland have been almost twice as likely to involve COVID-19 as deaths in the White ethnic group. However, for many the reality is that these inequalities and disparities are not a new phenomenon and the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted longstanding structural inequalities relating to poverty. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been evidence demonstrating poorer health outcomes and experiences for ethnic minority groups compared with the overall population. Examples include (but are not limited to) poor access to services and higher rates of both mental health illness and metabolic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Genetic factors have often been considered as the primary explanation for the increased prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; however, there is growing evidence that this simply cannot be attributed to genetic differences alone.
People of minority ethnicities are experiencing the economic effects of this crisis harder, evidence suggests. They are more likely to work in some ‘shut down’ sectors, particularly hospitality, and less likely to have savings to rely on. Previous economic recessions have disproportionately impacted minority ethnic employment, and this may be repeated, with profound implications on future living standards and overall income and wealth equality.
Adults of visible minority ethnicities are less likely to be employed than White adults – this is especially true for women – and may also be less likely to have access to ‘fair work’. Any rise in the cost of living will affect asylum seekers disproportionately as they are not allowed to work while their application is being processed.
There have been reports of an increase in hate crime in the UK against people perceived to be of Chinese, South Asian or East Asian ethnicities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and research suggests that since the referendum many young Eastern European school pupils living in Scotland and England have experienced racism and xenophobic attacks. Disruption to schooling may have a particularly negative effect on Gypsy/Travellers, and further exacerbate the considerable inequalities in educational outcomes that they already experience.
Black Lives Matter
The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer took place thousands of miles away in the US, but his cries that he could not breathe, in a distressing video that was seen across the world, resonated deeply with people in the UK. Within days of Floyd’s death, the protests in the UK had begun through the Black Lives Matter Campaign. The Black Lives Matter campaign was the largest series of anti-racist protest seen in the UK since the slave abolition movement. From Shetland to Porthleven, the Black Lives Matter protests have spread though all four home nations
Many who wanted to take part, but could not travel to the capital because of the coronavirus pandemic, mobilised locally instead including within Renfrewshire via the Black Lives Matter Renfrewshire. In the years since its creation, the Black Lives Matter organisation has had many notable impacts that have worked to better society. By drawing attention and raising public concern, Black Lives Matter has undoubtedly changed the dynamic of modern society regarding embedded racism. The true value of Black Lives Matter lies in the voice and attention that it lends to issues that has existed for far too long and despite over 50 years of legislation.
In Scotland, someone from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background is around twice as likely to experience poverty as someone from a white Scottish/British background. There is a danger that, in 2020 and for years to come, the wide-ranging impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will contribute to a rising tide of poverty amongst those on low incomes, including a disproportionate number of BAME people.
Key findings from a report on Ethnicity and Poverty in Scotland 2020: Analysis and reflection on the impact of Covid-19, investigates key themes and puts the most recently available statistics on poverty for BME people in Scotland into context. It also begins to explore the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic on poverty for people from a minority ethnic background.
The rate of relative poverty in Scotland is more than double for those from BAME groups compared to the majority white Scottish/British group.
Poverty levels appear to be rising, particularly within Asian or Asian British ethnic groups. In 2013-18, 34% of the Asian or Asian British statistical category were in relative poverty, and by 2014-19 this had risen by 5 percentage points to 39%. Children from minority ethnic families in Scotland are the only ‘priority group’ within child poverty policy still seeing rising levels of poverty. Almost half of all children in minority ethnic families were living in relative poverty in Scotland over 2016-19.
In employment, BAME people continue to be more likely to work in low paid sectors with little chance of career progression.
Unemployment rates are higher for minority ethnic people in Scotland; in 2019, the gap in employment rates between minority ethnic people and white people in Scotland was over 16%. This gap is much wider for minority ethnic women at 22% compared to 9.5% for men. BAME women in Scotland continue to face serious barriers in access to work, including racist and sexist attitudes and discrimination. The employment gap is also much wider for younger people. For 16-24-year-olds, there is a 26.1% gap between minority ethnic and white employment rates. Figures are similar for 25-34-year-olds, at 25.3%. Only 2.3% of Scotland’s Modern Apprentice starts in 2018/19 were from BAME backgrounds, despite a target of 5.1% by 2021
Graduate unemployment (and under-employment in part time jobs) is affecting BAME graduates in Scotland, who are up to three times more likely to be unemployed compared to white graduates. BAME people in Scotland are particularly affected by poverty linked to the cost of housing. BAME groups are often more likely to be living in expensive private rented housing. Homelessness may be becoming a significant problem; in Scotland, 7.4% of homelessness applications in 2018/19 were from BAME people.
In addition, in some areas such as benefit take up, there are still gaps in the data for individual ethnic groups, which are combined together into headline figures.
For more information:
Covid and Inequalities Final Report
New research from CRER: Ethnicity and Poverty in Scotland 2020
A perspective on health inequalities in BAME communities and how to improve access to primary care (nih.gov)
It’s been a turbulent year for race in Britain. So what next? | David Harewood and others | The Guardian - October 2021
How George Floyd's death sparked a wave of UK anti-racism protests | UK news | The Guardian - July 2020
What is racism - and what can be done about it? - CBBC Newsround
Black Lives Matter Website
Black Lives Matter Renfrewshire | Facebook