MSPs: Ethnic minorities still face significant workplace barriers

Scottish Parliament building. Picture: geograph.orgScottish Parliament building. Picture:
Scottish Parliament building. Picture:
Ethnic minorities still face 'significant barriers' in the workplace despite 40 years of legislation, training initiatives and equality policies, according to a report.

MSPs investigating the obstacles encountered by people from ethnic minority communities in Scotland found many were held back by discrimination or a lack of opportunity.

Holyrood’s Equal Opportunities Committee has urged the Scottish Government to take action to tackle “defective” employment and recruitment practices.

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During a six-month inquiry, the committee heard evidence that ethnic minorities are, on average, more likely to be unemployed or in low-paid work.

Despite largely performing better academically than white Scots, people from an ethnic minority background are also under-represented in senior management positions.

The committee’s report said: “We heard of the significant barriers facing people from ethnic minorities in gaining employment and developing a career.

“The evidence indicated a situation that is not acceptable and we were extremely concerned to hear of how discrimination and lack of access to opportunities are holding back many talented and committed individuals.

“To tackle discrimination and promote diversity in Scotland the Scottish Government must recognise the recommendations in our report. It should therefore give greater priority to the issue and target appropriately a range of resources.”

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MSPs called on the government to encourage the use of public sector procurement contracts to open up jobs to under-represented groups in certain industries.

Ministers should consider setting equality targets and commit to working with public bodies to ensure that policies on work experience, work placements and internships are equality assessed.

The committee also wants to see greater awareness of racial equality issues in the workplace, including open recruitment, diverse interview panels and equality-related questions in interviews.

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Committee convener Margaret McCulloch MSP said: “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 sector, and, where possible, the private sector 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 any 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.”