Growing inequality is no accident

by Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda.

Voice4Change England (V4CE)  have recently demanded  that Chancellor George Osborne should set up an inquiry into alarming new Labour Force Survey figures showing that Black British citizens are losing out in the economic “recovery”.  Rates for White people in  employment rose by over 360,000 (a 1.9 per cent increase) but the numbers of Black African and Caribbean people in work fell by 22,000 in the same period (a 3 per cent drop). The picture was even worse for African and Caribbean women, who experienced a 5.8 per cent fall. Surprise, surprise,  this shocking data was quietly slipped out on Budget Day. 

Kunle Olulode, the Director of V4CE, rightly declared that the figures are a scandal and that they show that“Britain is becoming even more unequal.”  He called  on George Osborne“to take immediate action to address institutional racism in the labour market. Government ministers often boast about creating one million new jobs, but these are not being spread fairly across all communities.”

This is cast iron evidence of structural racism in the labour market. Add this together with so many other areas where Black people face institutional racism in for example: education, policing, prisons,  criminal justice and, mental health and it becomes difficult to believe that racist inequality  is such a difficult subject to get on to the agenda. Sadly though, all the evidence shows that, far from being a key driver of social and political attempts to improve the situation, issues of race are becoming less and less easy to raise with Government and other decision-makers. For a few years after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, issues of institutional racism were at the forefront of public policy developments. Since the Coalition Government has come to power issues of race equality have now been sent right to the back of the bus.

Many of us in the race equality sector have started to question why this is, and to join together to increase our collective efforts to get race back on the agenda. One key issue we face is that the current Government clearly does not want to allow us the information and  the tools  necessary to challenge racial inequality. The fact that an increasing number of “free” schools are unaware of their duties under Equalities legislation,  cuts to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, threats to Judicial Review and to the practice of ethnic monitoring as well as the decision not to carry out the next census in 2021, all confirm our suspicion that there are those in Government who do not want to publish information that we might be able to use to campaign against increasing inequality. They see attempts to ensure equality as an unwarranted interference by the state in the market. They seem totally unworried by growing inequality,  whether of wealth, income and ownership, or of institutional discrimination and racism. We must start to challenge these dangerous new prejudices at every opportunity and with all our collective strength.