Muhammed Zia Ud Din, an English Literature student, reports on how COVID has exacerbated racial disparities in UK business ownership, employment and income.
5 min read.
Businesses owned by people with a minority ethnic background are two to three times more likely to close due to the combination of COVID and the lack of a sufficient government response. Why is this the case? According to government statistics published in 2018, only 5.4% of small to medium sized enterprises are owned by black and minority ethnic leadership. The proportion of BAME ownership, and BAME employment, is higher in sectors like health and social care, education, food and hospitality and accommodation, which are more vulnerable to lockdown-related pressures. BAME employment rates in some of these sectors are also higher.
The effects of inequality in business have been long standing, especially since the 2008 recession, which impacted ethnic minorities more significantly than the white majority. The 2008 recession exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities in the forms of higher unemployment, lower earning, and lower self-employment in minority ethnic groups in comparison to white people. These inequalities, combined with the challenges of higher housing costs, mean it is also more difficult for people in minority ethnic groups to own a house, and so they are more likely to be in precarious rental situations. In addition, 60% of people in minority ethnic groups have little to no savings. A lack of savings is more serious and concerning during this pandemic, where interest rates and inflation increase living expenses. A BBC report in June 2020 states that the ‘financial shock’ of COVID is disproportionately affecting BAME groups.
When we look at employability during this pandemic we can clearly see the inequality of impact for minority races. An article published by The Guardian reported that BAME workers have suffered the brunt of the job cuts during the pandemic: the number of BAME workers has been cut 26 times more than the number of white workers over the same time. This is a clear indication of systematic racism which has pushed the BAME community towards precarious low income and part time jobs. For example, around 47% of BAME millennials are on zero hour contracts.
With all that being said, this blog isn’t intended to incite or express hate, but to open up the discussion about racial injustice against ethnic minorities. It’s important that we have an open discussion about a topic like this, as it is the only way to have a better understanding of the reality that many people in this county face. Talking about it allows us to come forward with a response that we can all voice collectively so that we are heard.
We have seen what our voices can do when we fight racial injustice, as in the Black Lives Matter movement, the Say No to Racism campaign by the Football Association, and figures like Marcus Rashford fighting child poverty. But these are small successes in addressing a fundamental social issue that has been going on for far too long.
We all know COVID-19 has had a negative impact on everyone and on all businesses, but one of thing main things we should learn from this pandemic, and also from various events and movements that have happened during COVID, like the Black Lives Matter movement and the Farmers movement in India, is that we should fight against the inequality faced by people of ethnic backgrounds, because they are citizens as well – they make up our society.
This blog post was written by Muhammed Zia Ud Din based on his contribution the School of English and Modern Languages BAME Student Community debate on the topic ‘Tackling Racism: “Merry Christmas!… But why no Eid, Diwali or Vaisakhi?”, which he co-lead with Saarah Bhalwani in December 2020.