EMPLOYMENT AMONG MINORITIES RISE AS RACE AUDIT SHOWS RESULTS by ALOK SHARMA Minister of state for employment at the Department of Work and Pensions LAST week, we saw encouraging figures from the Office for National Statistics that showed employment in this country at a record high, unemployment at a 40-year low, the employment rate for black and minority ethic people at an all-time high and the number of young people out of work down by over 400,000 since 2010. These are hugely promising figures, with more than 1,000 jobs being created a day under this government and more people having the security of a regular pay packet to provide for themselves and their families. On top of this good news, wages are now growing faster than prices, meaning that people are starting to feel the benefit of more money in their pockets. This is another turning point as we build a stronger, fairer economy. In 2015, the Conservatives made a commitment to getting BAME employment up by 20 per cent by 2020. In three years, we have already come along way and are close to reaching our goal. We are seeing the employment gap at an all-time low, with BAME employment up by 36 per cent since 2010. I was particularly encouraged to see these figures but there is always more that can, and should, be done. Britain has come a long way in spreading equality and opportunity and we have seen our own prime minister championing these issues. At the end of last year, Theresa May published the Race Disparity Audit, shining a light on how our public services treat people from different backgrounds. The audit will become an essential resource to tackle injustices at all levels of society, from central government to local communities. It will challenge society, government and public services to “explain or change” disparities in how people from different backgrounds are treated. We need to look at the rates in different communities, and, in particular, the rates of employment for women. For example, the Indian community has the highest female employment rate at 70.7 per cent. Meanwhile, the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community has rates of 38.7 per cent and 35.8 per cent, respectively: with the gender employment gap in this community being the widest, at 34 per cent and 35 per cent between men and women. These are complex issues, but we know that gender is affecting women’s participation in the workplace. Through our national network of job centres we can make sure that they are not being locked out of opportunities. Jobcentre Plus will work in their communities with jobseekers but also with businesses to dismantle the barriers to work. More specifically, the audit has allowed us to take targeted action in ‘hotspot’ areas where there have previously been big gaps in employment. It is not just about identifying the areas and corners of society that have been left behind, but also shining a light on what still needs improving, while recognising where we can see real progress has been made. Where we see a formula that is working, it is important for us to understand what we are doing right, so we can mould it and replicate it in areas that are perhaps falling behind the trend. We have made real progress on closing the employment gap between minority groups and the overall population and reaching the highest employment rate on record is a huge milestone. It means we are pushing hard against barriers that hold people back. And it shows that positive change is happening. Up and down the country, we aim to expand successful mentoring programmes to help people into work, as well as targeting additional traineeship programmes to help 16- to 24-year-olds, offering English, maths and vocational learning alongside a work placement to prepare them for employment. Ensuring that more people have the basic skills that they may need, to give the opportunities and the chance to further their careers. Businesses are opening their doors, recruitment practices are improving and people are getting better access to opportunities that really matter. At the core of Conservative values is the belief that through hard work, you should be able to get to where you want to go, regardless of your background or where you live. It should be your talents that propel you forward and nothing else. I want everyone to be able to set their eyes on the job they desire and have the self-belief that they are capable of reaching their full potential, that no one has to set themselves personal limits due to their background. These latest figures mean I am optimistic. BAME unemployment more than doubled under Labour. Following 13 years of a Labour government that was trying to hide the hard truths about racial disparity, we now have a government which is ready to expose them and to make constructive and lasting changes. Employment rates for black and minority ethic people is at an all-time high and we should be encouraged by these figures. I believe the work this government has done will allow more people to climb the career ladder and reach their full potential.