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“Recession could lose a generation of Black talent”

Joe-Montgomery-BTEGOne of the country’s most senior Black civil servants has warned that Britain’s ability to compete with our economic rivals will be seriously hampered if a generation of Black youth fall victim to the recession

By Lester Holloway

Joe Montgomery (pictured) a director-general in the government’s Communities and Local Government Department, said that now was “not a time to discriminate” against ethnic minorities in the labour market.

Speaking at a conference on the impact of the recession on Black workers today, Montgomery said: “Our ability to trade as a nation will be impaired if we don’t bring these young people into the labour market.”

His comments come after figures released last week revealed that one in five African or Caribbean men were out of work, and that the situation was rapidly getting worse as the recession bites.

Iqbal-Wahhab-BTEG

Iqbal Wahhab today

A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that over the past year the unemployment rate for black men had risen five percentage points to 18.2%, while the rates for white men had risen by just three percentage points to 5.2%.

The data backed up evidence already presented to the governments’ Ethnic Minority Employment Taskforce, which indicated that Black unemployment is climbing at an alarming rate.

Experts fear that disproportionate redundancy rates for Black workers is already affecting the community as dramatically as the recessions of the 1980s.

Jeremy Crook, director of the Black Training and Enterprise Group, said: “There is a greater crisis in terms of unemployment than there has been for generations. Almost a quarter of black men, 21%, are unemployed.’

The worsening situation has led some campaigners to fear that Britain might lose another generation of talented Black youth, in the same way that earlier recessions prevented people who are now in their late 30s to mid-40s getting on the career ladder after finishing education, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

The Ethnic Minority Employment Taskforce, led by restaurant entrepreneur Iqbal Wahhab was established to combat a persistent gap between the rates of Black and white employment.

Speaking about the need for fairness in employment, Montgomery said: “The UK’s prosperity will be threatened if we allow this ethnic penalty to persist. This is not a time to discriminate.”

There is now a widespread recognition that even as Britain crawls out of a recession, the job prospects for Black employees still looks bleak as the public sector braces itself for large scale funding cuts.

Montgomery told the BTEG conference that the government had spent unprecedented levels of resources in deprived areas, but that spending had already reached its’ “high water mark” and may now be forced down.

Wahhab said that a combination of the disproportionate impact of the economic downturn and the fact that the government had scrapped a series of initiatives that specifically targeted the Black unemployed meant he was gloomy about the future.

He commented: “If you are from a Black or ethnic minority you are more likely to be unemployed now than you were 20 years ago. We are going to see this increase unless we get the tools to address this, which were taken away in the name of mainstreaming.”

Wahhab said he had not carried out his threat to resign from the taskforce because he was making some progress in talks with ministers and officials.

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One Response

  1. Absolutely spot on. it’s going to be even worse for black people who want to break into top class professions like law, banking and politics.

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