Scots penalised in workplace because of their ethnicity

Web 2000 margaret mculloch joseph amazou

Margaret McCulloch and Joseph Amouzou

A damning Scottish Parliament committee report finds Scotland’s ethnic minorities are on average more likely to be unemployed or in low-paid work 

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28th January 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Scots workers from minority cultures are penalised when it comes to getting a job because of their ethnicity, a Scottish Parliament report has found.

Despite 40 years of legislation, training initiatives and equality policies, Scotland’s ethnic minorities are on average more likely to be unemployed or in low-paid work – despite largely performing better academically than white Scots.

The damning discovery was made by Holyrood’s equal opportunities committee which spent six months examining barriers faced by Scotland’s ethnic minorities in accessing training and employment and ways these can be tackled. 

Scots penalised in workplace because of their ethnicityMargaret McCulloch MSP

Fail to act now, and we risk placing an ‘ethnic penalty’ on Scotland’s young people

The committee’s report calls for a number of measures to tackle the deep-seated issues found.

It said the Scottish Government should consider setting equality targets for public bodies who offer work experience, work placements and internships.

Interview panels should also be diverse, with high-quality post-interview feedback provided for all job applicants.

All public bodies’ employees should be offered training, mentoring and shadowing opportunities and public sector procurement contracts could also be used to open up jobs to ethnic minority groups who are underrepresented in certain industries.

Margaret McCulloch MSP, convener of the equal opportunities committee, said: “Scotland prides itself on being a welcoming country. But the committee heard that many employers still do not value diversity in the workplace or see it as a positive goal.

“We were told that regardless of their ethnic background, ethnic minority young people are still performing better but are not seeing any kind of benefit in the labour market as a result.

“Achieving equality in the workplace is a vital part of ensuring Scotland as a nation is fair and inclusive to all.

“We are urging the Scottish Government to work with senior figures across the public and private sectors to tackle the problem.

“We can only progress if we refuse to accept current defective recruitment practices and challenge segregation within employment.

“Without confronting existing practices, we cannot address underlying racism and discrimination that the evidence confirms exists.

“Fail to act now and we risk placing an "ethnic penalty" on Scotland’s young people.”

Over the six month period the committee heard for a number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

19-year-old Joseph Amouzou from Springburn in Glasgow told the committee his problems started after he left school.

The former Bellahouston Academy pupil moved from Togo aged four but despite being fluent in both English and French and having volunteered as a sports coach, he struggled to find work for a year.

Amouzou said: “A white, Scottish friend and I would go out together looking for work. We would hand in our CVs, but even though we had the same qualifications, he got the calls.

“I thought putting my picture on my CV would show I’m smart and presentable. But then I started to wonder if having my picture – and name – on my CV made the difference.”

It wasn’t until Amouzou got in touch with the charity African Challenge Scotland who suggested he applied for a Commonwealth Apprenticeship that he finally got a break.

He now works for North Glasgow Housing Association but his friends aren’t so lucky.

He added: “Most of my friends from ethnic minority backgrounds have not managed to achieve their goals. In fact, only one has a job.”

Ola Pawluk (28), a Polish national, found it easier to get work when she came to Glasgow 10 years ago. She arrived on a Tuesday and started work the next day.

However, she had to fight to get the same terms and conditions as her Scottish colleagues and she would often be the victim of verbal racist abuse.

“Employers wrongly assumed I didn’t have the legal right to work here, and that I would work harder for less,” she said. “I had to fight to get the same contract my co-workers took for granted, and to be paid minimum wage.   

“My supervisor would make fun of my accent. You learned "not to understand" certain things. It made life easier.

“The occasional client would tell me to "get back to my own country" if I didn’t serve their drink quickly enough. I would respond with a look, but only that. You don’t want to be aggressive or start trouble.”

Things did get better for Pawluk though. She went on to university and is now an activities and engagement officer with West of Scotland Regional Equality Council.