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50% rise in unemployed youngsters from ethnic minorities

Labour cites figures in attack on coalition for ‘abandonment’ of 16- to 24-year-olds from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to joblessness.

Job Centre Plus and employment rate amongst ethnic minorities has increased by 50%

Long-term unemployment among black, Asian and minority ethnic 16- to 24-year-olds has risen sharply.

The number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by almost 50% since the coalition came to power, according to figures released by the Labour party.

There are now 41,000 16- to 24-year-olds from black, asian and minority ethnic [BAME] communities who are long-term unemployed – a 49% rise from 2010, according to an analysis of official figures by the House of Commons Library.

At the same time, there was a fall of 1% in overall long-term youth unemployment and a 2% fall among young white people.

Labour described the findings as shameful and accused the coalition of abandoning an already marginalised group of young people.

“These figures are astonishing,” said the shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan. “At a time where general unemployment is going down and employment is going up, it is doing the reverse for this group… we have got a generation that is being thrown on the scrapheap, and what compounds it is that a disproportionate number are black, asian, minority ethnic.”

Labour said the government was paying the price for abandoning many of the measures introduced by the previous government to tackle disadvantage in BME communities – including equality impact assessments. It said the coalition’s work programme had concentrated on the “low-hanging fruit” in the job market instead of trying to help those in more challenging circumstances.

“This is going to lead to problems for years to come,” said Khan. “How can we tackle issues around lack of BAME people in the judiciary, civil service or the boardroom if they can’t even get a job as a young person? We are stopping a generation fulfilling their potential and that is not just a problem for them as individuals or their wider families, it is a problem for all of us.”

The spokesman added that there were now more people in work than ever, including “over half a million more members of the BAME community enjoying the security of a regular wage”.

The Conservatives said the latest ONS figures showed there were 129,000 more people from BME backgrounds in work compared with the same time last year, with the total number at a near-record high of more than 3 million.

“The job is not done – that’s why we need to stick with our plan at this crucial election and not risk the chaos of the alternatives,” the spokesman said.

But Simon Woolley from Operation Black Vote said the long-term unemployment figures underlined the “race penalty” facing young people from BAME communities.

“It is absolutely critical that political parties have a plan to address this shocking statistic because at the moment it seems as though a generation of young black men – and it is often men and sometimes women – are being cast aside and it is to the detriment of us all.”

The figures on long-term youth unemployment have been released before the launch of Labour’s “BAME manifesto” on Wednesday, which sets out the party’s approach to race equality.

“It is a huge waste of the next generation’s skills, potential and talent and it comes at a huge cost to young black and minority-ethnic people, their families, taxpayers and the economy.”

She said Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee would “offer a paid starter job to every young person who’s been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for over a year, work they’d have to take or risk losing benefits.”

The battle for the ethnic minority and migrant vote is likely to be intense in the weeks running up to May’s election. Earlier this year, it emerged that a record number of people who were born outside the UK will be able to vote in this year’s general election and are likely to hold the balance of power in several key constituencies, including two where more than 50% of those eligible to vote were born abroad.

The shadow equalities minister, Gloria de Piero, said: “The government’s failure to get to grips with BAME youth unemployment shows their complacency towards Britain’s ethnic-minority communities. Ethnic-minority Britons have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis and many communities are really struggling.”

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