The cuts and their impact on BME communities by Jyoti Bhojani

UNISON Black Members

On 21st February Next Generation Labour, will be hosting an event on how the coalition’s austerity measures aren’t working. Ahead of this event it is important to realise just how hard the Government’s austerity measures are hitting the most vulnerable in society. While much attention has rightly been given to the impact of cuts on women, less has been written on the impact on Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

BME communities are being disproportionately affected by the cuts; a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2010 indicated that the proportion of BME communities living in poverty is significantly higher than the national average. Therefore, as cuts to public pay, services and benefits take hold it is BME communities who will be hardest hit.

For example, traditionally Black communities have found it easier to gain employment in the public sector. Approximately 40% of BME workers are employed in the public sector compared to 25% of their white counterparts. In addition, due to what many see as a “race penalty”, large numbers of Black workers are at the lower end of the pay scale so as job cuts and pay freezes take effect it is not hard to see who will bear the brunt of the pain. The Equality and Human Rights Commission found, in their ‘How Fair is Britain?’ report, that BME groups earn less than their white counterparts and in particular “Black male graduates earn 24% less than White British male graduates.”

Cuts to education are arguably the most worrying for BME communities as these threaten to do lasting damage to a generation of young and talented people. With EMA being abolished, and tuition fees trebled, many face a future that’s harder than ever, unable to afford an education. This will undoubtedly will have a long term impact on career prospects. At present almost half of BME 16-24 year olds are unemployed compared to 20% amongst the white young people in the same age bracket.

The government is not only creating a socio-economic divide in our society but is also creating a racial divide ripping apart the fabric of our multicultural, vibrant society. The only beneficiaries from such an approach are unfortunately likely to be right wing groups such as the BNP and EDL who are already using heightened racial tensions to divide us further as a society when, now more than ever we need to be united.

While there are underlying long-term problems which contribute to the racial inequalities which tragically still exist today it is clear that at present the most immediate threat to the majority of BME communities is cuts. It is essential that we stand together and win the economic argument so all of our communities can be properly protected.


Jyoti Bhojani is Young Labour’s national Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Officer

Photo credit: UNISON.