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West Midlands Local Skills Report Supporting Evidence 2022


This document includes the thematic papers that were commissioned as part of the WMCA’s Local Skills Report update for 2022.

BME Employment and Skills Analysis

This paper is produced by Professor Anne Green at WMREDI1 for the WMCA’s Skills Advisory Panel and Jobs and Skills Delivery Board. It should be used inform thinking around education, skills and employment policy and programmes in the region, specifically the adult education budget and inform the update of the 2021/22 Local Skills Report.

This paper focuses on (BME) Black, Asian and minority ethnic employment and skills, including comparisons with the experience of white ethnic groups. Much of the analysis focuses on trends at national level, given the focus of academic and policy analysis at this scale and the availability of more robust data than at regional and local scales. National level analysis is likely to be pertinent to the West Midlands, although it is worthy of note that analyses of poverty and ethnicity prior to the pandemic identified Birmingham as an area where unemployment rates for some BME groups were particularly high.

The paper sets out the context by presenting key trends in education, skills and employment by ethnic group. It highlights barriers faced by different ethnic groups in learning and employment, identifying sub-groups facing particular barriers. It explores the implications of the trends in learning and employment identified, particularly those associated with the labour market challenges experienced by some BME groups and generally poorer returns to education than for the white majority. It concludes by presenting implications for stakeholders in the West Midlands, including WMCA programmes.

  • Overall,BME groups perform well in education and are characterised by relatively high rates of participation in post-compulsory education, but success in education does not translate to success in employment – in terms of both employment rates and types of jobs.

  • In aggregate, BME groups have higher unemployment rates than white groups and are characterised by lower pay in work. Their employment has been disproportionately negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • There are important differences between BME groups in terms of educational participation and economic position (i.e. employment, unemployment and inactivity rates). Cultural issues play a role here; for example, women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups have high rates of inactivity which are, in part, associated with care responsibilities.

  • Structural issues also help explain differences in the labour market position of BME groups. Evidence indicates that, on average, individuals from BME groups make more applications to get a job than their white counterparts. This means that once unemployed, the duration of unemployment tends to be longer for individuals from BME groups, and this is associated with wage penalties and cumulative disadvantage.

  • While a focus on increasing participation in training will help those from all ethnic groups with poor skills who face the greatest barriers to employment, it will not address the labour market disadvantage faced by many people from BME groups. Rather the main focus needs to be on tackling discrimination, speedy access to good quality jobs, addressing under- employment and enhancing skills utilisation.