Ethnic Disadvantage Has Not Disappeared from the Labour Market Despite Legislation. What Theoretical Explanations Have Been Put Forward to Explain Why People from Ethnic and Racial Minorities Experience Discrimination?

Topics: Unemployment, Minority group, Sociology Pages: 11 (3757 words) Published: November 19, 2012
LUBS3001 Gender and Equality at Work in Comparative Perspective

Ethnic disadvantage has not disappeared from the labour market despite legislation. What theoretical explanations have been put forward to explain why people from ethnic and racial minorities experience discrimination? Which do you consider to be the most helpful in explaining disadvantage in the labour market?

Ethnic and racial discrimination in the workplace is a controversial topic, which has been researched and assessed thoroughly over the past years. Although the terms ‘ethnicity’ and ‘race’ are often talked about in union, they have different meanings and stem from different social contexts. Race is an ideology with a particular concept in mind, and can be understood in various social and historical contexts, for example when slavery was prevalent and race was an important factor for distinguishing groups in society. Race can also refer to particular physical features someone may have, for example someone’s skin colour. Ethnicity on the other hand, relates more to groups of people who share significant, common beliefs that are part of their embedded culture, and usually passed down through their heritage. Race and ethnicity are key issues in the workplace because evidence shows that when analysing different measures of achievement in the workplace, such as unemployment rates, earnings and progression into higher levels of work, ethnic minorities are disadvantaged (Cabinet Office), and although the magnitude of these disadvantages are generally decreasing over time, it is still an un-resolved issue affecting millions of people every year. Although many theoretical explanations have been proposed regarding this ‘glass ceiling’ theory (The economist, 2009) in the workplace, it is important to recognise that many of these theories are linked, and therefore there is no one prevailing answer to resolve the issue. During this essay I will discuss the Underclass theories, with reference to Murray (1989) and Wilson, (1987) theories of discrimination and racism focusing on Macpherson’s concept of institutional racism (1999), and theories of ethnic diversity in relation to human and social capital, concluding with which theories I deem to be the most explanatory in reference to this topic.

Evidence of ethnic disadvantage in the labour market is plentiful, with statistics covering multiple areas of the subject. In the TUC report of Youth, Unemployment and Ethnicity (2012) it shows that the unemployment rate for White people (male and females) is 20%, for Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi the figure increases to 29%, and for Black/African Caribbean the figure is more than twice than that for Whites, at 45%. However, when analysing this research it is important to recognise that these employment rates may be particularly high due to the economic recession around this time affecting the labour market, but the variation in figures amongst the groups is still apparent. Similarly, this research cannot be fully analysed as different ethnic groups have been grouped together, and between these ethnicities there are substantial variations with regards to employment. An example of this arises from statistics from the Labour Force Survey (1999), which show that the unemployment rate for Indians is closer to that of Whites than it is to Bangladeshis. In the Cabinet Office report of Ethnic minorities in the Labour market (2003), information states that ‘while ethnic minorities are disadvantaged on average, the labour market successes of the Indians and Chinese show that the old picture of White success and ethnic minority under-performance is now out of date’. Although this is extremely positive progress for Indians and Chinese, there is still much more to be done to further bridge the gap between other ethnic groups in the labour market.

Statistics from the Labour Force Survey (1999) show White people had an unemployment rate of just 6%, Indians 8%, Pakistanis 16%,...
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