A new report finds that ethnic minority workers, particularly women, are more likely to be in insecure work than their white counterparts.
An analysis of UK job market data has revealed that ethnic minorities, alongside women, young and disabled workers have been consistently affected by insecure employment for the last 20 years.
The report, published by the non-profit research organisation The Work Foundation, analyses data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) from 2000 to 2021, focusing on employment contracts, personal finances and access to workers’ rights.
Its ‘UK Insecure Work Index’ reveals how job insecurity has changed over the last two decades, while some groups of workers have been consistently trapped in severe forms of precarity, including short-term or casual contracts, and involuntary part-time work. This affected 20 to 25 percent of workers a year, and an estimated 6.2 million people in 2021. Hospitality, services and agriculture are the most affected sectors.
According to the data, ethnic minority workers are more likely to be in insecure work (25 percent compared to 19 percent of white workers). The data also shows that ethnic minority women are the most vulnerable among all worker groups, as 26 percent are likely to be in insecure work. Women overall are 10 percent more likely to experience insecure work than men – 25 percent compared to 15 percent.
The research shows the gap is larger between white and ethnic minority men, who are ten percent more likely to be in severely insecure work.
“At a time of a cost of living crisis, those in insecure and low paid work are among the groups at most risk,” said Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University.
“Wages have stagnated and while millions more people may be in employment, the quality and security of the jobs they are in often means they are unable to make ends meet,” he added.
Workers under 24, the research found, are two and a half times more likely to be in severely insecure work than older people, with 43 percent of young workers likely to experience involuntary part-time or temporary work, or a combination of these and other forms of insecurity. Disabled workers are six percent more likely to suffer severely insecure work.
More jobs, less secure work
According to ONS data, the number of job vacancies in the UK has been hitting record highs, with more job vacancies than people out of work. However, the research shows that despite the availability of work, employment conditions are often precarious, while critics say the government is not doing enough to address the issue.
“Up and down the country, millions are trapped in jobs that have wildly unpredictable hours, low pay, and limited rights,” said Frances O’Grady, the head of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), an umbrella organisation that represents most trade unions in the UK.
“Instead of tackling insecure work, ministers have sat on their hands and allowed it to flourish. In the midst of a cost-of-living emergency, it’s more important than ever that the government clamps down on low-paid precarious work,” O’Grady added.