Social inequalities in the UK are likely to worsen as a result of public sector cuts, Manchester study claims
Unemployment among black young people in Britain is significantly higher than in America, research from the University of Manchester has found.
Professor Yaojun Li, who analysed responses from 4.7 million people to the most authoritative social surveys in the two countries, found that during the last three recessions unemployment among black British men was up to 19 percentage points higher than in America.
Unemployment among black women was also found to be consistently higher in Britain than in America.
He said, “Overall, there is greater ethnic inequality in Britain than in the USA for both sexes.
“This gives a fairly strong indication that the flexible labour market policies adopted in Britain in the last few decades did not protect the minority ethnic groups against the repercussions of recessions.”
He claimed that America’s affirmative action programme and federal procurement policy, requiring public institutions to have staff compositions representative of the population, had helped reduce the unemployment rate among black people there.
Professor Li also found that Great Britain was a more unequal society than the US. The gap in employment between men and women, and between old and young, is greater in Britain than in America.
“This may be due to the fact that in Britain the mid 1980s and the early 1990s recessions were accompanied and exacerbated by a process of deindustrialization and restructuring of the economy, and by the retrenchment of the state, which happened much more abruptly in Britain than in the USA,” he said.
“The much-vaunted flexible labour market does not seem to have solved the problem of stimulating economic activity and unleashing human creativity. As amply shown in the analysis, the so-called flexible labour market in Britain was not actually all that good at evening out the peaks and troughs, let alone in protecting the most vulnerable social groups.
“The overall smaller social inequalities in the USA, with particular regard to gender and ethnicity, suggest that the affirmative action programme in the USA did play a positive role in protecting the vulnerable groups, in comparison with the British data.”
Professor Li spoke about his fears for the future, and about how the planned government cuts may affect social equality in the UK.
“The current recession has already taken its toll with nearly three million being unemployed and a similar number being inactive. Yet, worse is still to come. As a large proportion of the disadvantaged group, particularly black people, tend to find employment in the public sector, if they can find a job at all, the current Coalition Government’s stringency plan to cut public sector employment is most likely to hit the most vulnerable groups even harder,” he said.
“Economic cycles are largely beyond the control of individuals, families and even national governments. The three recessions in the last 40 years in the two archetypical liberal economies have all claimed victims by penalising the most vulnerable groups, in both countries and those just entering the labour market.
“The overall disadvantages were more salient in Britain than in the USA, suggesting that the flexible labour market policies adopted by the British government failed to protect the most vulnerable groups and that the affirmative action programmes helped reduce minority ethnic disadvantages in the USA.”