Only a few months ago, rapper Stormzy was forced to defend himself against heavy criticism for acknowledging, in an interview, that the UK is racist.
Even more recently, following the death of George Floyd, parallels that were made on social media between the experiences of Black people in the UK and the US caught the anger of many white users who renounced the reality of police brutality in the UK.
Despite low racial awareness in the UK, statistics released by both government bodies and independent groups have highlighted discrimination in schools, policing, employment and social services that ultimately contribute to a low social mobility and higher rates of poverty within BAME communities.
In recent years, diversity initiatives and BAME led recruitment agencies have been established to tackle the inequality and lack of representation present; especially in employment.
However, a study led by the Centre for Sociological Research and GEMM in 2017 highlights staggering realities in discriminatory hiring practices. In research conducted between Nov 2016 and Dec 2017 it showed on average that those from BAME backgrounds had to apply 60% more than their white counterparts when submitting job applications in order to secure a call-back.
The study emphasised that employers had an aversion to culturally distant communities which resulted in heavier discrimination being faced by those from Black African and MENA backgrounds.
Lack of job opportunities means low social mobility as the study discovered “continued racial discrimination in the labour market against second generation black people and people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi background cannot be ruled out as a significant […] explanation for their continuing disadvantage.”
These findings on social mobility reflect a Guardian article penned that same year that underlined an Islamophobic job market that explicitly limits those from Muslim backgrounds.
This was also noted in the SRC study as it highlighted “strong anti-Muslim attitudes” significantly impacting the call-back rate for those coming from Muslim majority countries, regardless of whether they disclosed their religion on their CV or not.
The single largest group of Muslims in the UK are of Pakistani descent and the study concluded that, for Pakistanis, there is virtually no change in levels of high discrimination faced by them when comparing data from studies from the 1970s and those from the 21st century.
In the years since the 2017 SRC study, even more BAME outreach programmes have been established, however, a recently published Colour of Power survey revealed that BAME representation in top jobs has barely risen in the past three years.
The 2020 COP survey’s result of only a 1.2% increase in BAME representation in top jobs shows that large institutional barriers still hold back the progression of BAME people in the working world.
Despite the work of many organisations tackling social injustice, the lack of progress highlights that for many UK employers, the racism that has seeped into their hiring process needs to be acknowledged and not accepted as preferential bias. Only then can solutions be brought forth.