By Diane Abbott MP
October 25 2012
David Cameron will no doubt be tempted in to breathing a sigh of relief at the latest unemployment figures.
Unemployment is at 2.53m, high but falling marginally, and the coalition have taken this to mean the economic picture is improving and there is now hope for young people.
If you’re young and black however no such picture can even begin to be painted. 50% of young black men are unemployed and a recent TUC report in to youth unemployment shows that since that since this Tory-led government came in to power unemployment amongst young black men has risen faster than for any other group.
The next biggest rise has been for young black women. Earlier in the year I wrote of how being black in the job market means being the last to be hired and the first to be fired. This report shows the facts behind this reality.
Differences in employment by ethnicity are widening and as a country we are running out of excuses. More black people are going to university and, slowly, more are going to good universities.
I recently held an award ceremony celebrating the academic achievement of black youngsters, youngsters who have achieved fantastic grades. This is not about a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity.
The reality in communities in Hackney and cities such as London is that the public sector is a traditional employer, employing good people who would otherwise struggle to find a job with small and medium enterprises who are looking for the ‘right fit’.
With the cuts to public sector that are taking place those opportunities for young people are thinner on the ground. In the private sector it has always been more about who you know and having strong social networks. This often means an extended period as an unpaid intern, something which is not feasible for many. This means that in a city that is thriving not everyone can be given an opportunity, some are merely forced to look on as opportunity springs up around them.
The rise in unemployment for black women is very worrying. Black women, Caribbean women especially, are often recognised as being a success story, well integrated and with relatively high levels of employment especially when compared to their male equivalents.
Traditionally black Caribbean women have thrived in the public sector, thanks in part to transparent recruitment processes. Initially many, including my own mother, found work in the NHS as nurses. More recently many have found work in administrative roles.
There is an underlying narrative here of a failed generation, of young people never being given that first opportunity in the jobs market and of young black people being written off as unemployable.
Long-term youth unemployment is on the rise. In my constituency the number of 16-24 year-olds on Jobseekers Allowance for more than a year is up by 50% in 12 months. In some places the rise has been even more dramatic. Harlow has seen an increase of 2400% in long term JSA claimants.These are the people with scars on their backs in the hunt for a job.
These are young people sending hundreds of CV’s with not so much as an acknowledgement. It will be difficult to get them back in to the jobs market after having been out for so long. At the moment it seems if you are young and black in this country Cameron’s legacy looks to be about leaving you without hope and without opportunities either.