Young Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are likely to be hit hardest by the widely predicted coronavirus recession, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield has warned.

Dr Gurleen Popli, a senior lecturer in the University’s Department of Economics, has launched an investigation into why unemployment and economic inactivity is worse for young BAME people. 

Her research will predominantly focus on the decisions of young people at the end of their compulsory education and how this may affect them when they reach age 25. 

Dr Popli said: “As the Black Lives Matter movement gains pace in the UK and globally, it becomes imperative to understand why young BAME people experience such high levels of unemployment and economic inactivity relative to their white peers.”

There are concerns that the forthcoming economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic threatens to exacerbate existing racial inequalities.

Recent figures in a GOV.UK report highlight these already existing inequalities.

In 2018, the unemployment rate for 16-24-year olds in young white people stood at 11 per cent. For young BAME people, the rates were disproportionate, standing at 18 per cent. 

In examining differences between BAME and white youth educational decisions, Dr Popli’s research aims to gain a broader understanding of youth unemployment. 

Through the study she hopes to provide the information needed to make changes to this system.  

“When shocks hit the economy, low-wage, low-skilled and BAME young workers tend to bear the brunt of job cuts.

“We saw this during the recessions of the 1980s, 1990s and 2008-2009 – and without strong government action, history is likely to repeat itself as the coronavirus recession bites.”

The launch of Dr Popli’s research comes after a report published by Public Health England this week found that people in BAME communities are likely to be at increased risk of acquiring COVID-19.

Dr Popli, who has been awarded the prestigious Leverhulme Research Fellowship to carry out the research,predicts similar disparities when it comes to youth unemployment.

She said: “Public Health England last week highlighted how the pandemic replicated and increased existing health inequalities – and we are likely to see similar trends when it comes to youth unemployment.”

Given the increased health effect of Coronavirus on BAME communities, potential unemployment is likely to compound the effects that this community will suffer in the coming years.

Last week the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it had launched an inquiry to identify actions to address racial inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus.

David Isaac, Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, said: “This inquiry is part of our long-term strategic approach to tackle the structural inequalities that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare. 

“This is an important step towards ensuring that the deep-rooted inequality faced by ethnic minorities is meaningfully addressed as we rebuild.

“Everyone must live and work together in order to create a strong economy and a cohesive society.”


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