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Labour Market Trends (Black and Minority Ethnic Communities)

Volume 551: debated on Thursday 18 October 2012

2. What recent assessment she has made of the effects of recent labour market trends on black and minority ethnic communities. (123198)

Tackling unemployment is a priority for this Government. Our approach is to support according to individual need rather than to segregate according to ethnic group. On the matter of need, Mr Speaker, would you allow me to pay tribute to the fact that today is anti-slavery day?

Yesterday, the TUC published a report that showed that the unemployment rate among young black men stands at 50%, and that that group has experienced the sharpest rise in unemployment since the Minister’s Government came to power. Does she recognise the devastating impact that her Government’s failure to get the economy moving is having on the lives of those young men? What specific action will she take to tackle the problem?

I do not accept the accuracy of the figures the hon. Lady mentions, but I accept that the figures on young black men and employment are bad, and that they need to improve. A number of the figures given fail to classify those in full-time education, but it would be wrong to assume that someone needs additional support simply because of the colour of their skin. Notwithstanding that, the Government are giving a range of tailored support, through Jobcentre Plus, the fantastic Work programme, the Youth Contract and all our measures to get Britain working. We should not stereotype people according to ethnic groups—everyone needs help.

I welcome my hon. Friend to her responsibilities. As part of the task of ensuring that the colour of someone’s skin is no more important than the colour of their eyes or hair, will she encourage her colleagues in the Government to promote vocational qualifications and achievements in education, so that people can be chosen on their merit and qualities rather than be disqualified because of prejudice or stereotypes?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The one-size-fits-all approach to unemployment has clearly failed. We need local providers to deliver good, innovative local services. We should be pleased that, in 2010-11, the highest number of black and minority ethnic apprentices started their training. Michael Gove’s reforms will be key to that, and I very much look forward to seeing them coming to fruition.