Race inequality in the workforce

Exploring connections between work, ethnicity and mental health
Employee mental health Ethnic communities Future of work Gig economy Labour force Quality of work life United Kingdom

This report is a joint initiative by Carnegie UK Trust, Operation Black Vote and UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Together we recognise the changes taking place in the world of work, the growing ‘gig economy’ and the drive amongst policy organisations and campaigners to push forward changes which would better protect people’s wellbeing in circumstances where it may be compromised.

Recognising and being concerned about the over-representation of ethnic minority groups in the ‘gig economy’ and forms of precarious work more broadly, we saw potential in using the Next Steps data to find out more about these issues. Next Steps, described in detail in the full report, is an extensive longitudinal cohort study collecting data from a cohort of more than 7,000 young people about many areas of their lives. Given the over-representation of ethnic minority groups in Next Steps, this data set is a particularly robust source for this piece of work.

Alongside the academic task of drawing new learning from Next Steps, this report offers some contextual summaries on the topics of race inequality in the UK, changes in the world of work, progress in advancing the ‘good work agenda’ and the experience of ethnic minority groups using mental health services. These are serious and complex topic areas which are not covered in full here; however we have attempted to draw the reader’s eye to some of the key opportunities and challenges in the areas where work, mental health and ethnicity intersect and deeply impact one another.

Key findings:

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young adults continue to be at a greater risk of being unemployed than White young adults.
  • BAME groups are more likely to be in some form of precarious work.
  • Despite a focus on the precariousness of this generation’s employment, the probability of having a permanent contract is over 80% for all ethnic groups. 
  • There are significant links between employment status and mental health.
  • Some ethnic minority groups report more mental ill health than the White group, whilst other ethnic groups report less.
  • Those who reported symptoms of mental ill health at age 14 or age 16 are more likely to report mental ill health at age 25.
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