Are black and Asian kids being abandoned by this government?
We've always known that youth unemployment is pretty bad, but the problem is much, much worse if you're not white. According to recent figures released by Labour, the number of 16-24 year olds from ethnic minorities who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by 50 per cent under the coalition government.
There are now 41,000 people from that age bracket who have been out of a job for more that a year. The House of Commons Library says that this is a 49 per cent rise from 2010 – despite the fact that overall long-term youth unemployment has actually decreased by 1 per cent. So while the economy is apparently doing better, that's not actually what's happening for teenagers from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
The findings come a few weeks after David Cameron's election pledge that he would make unemployed 18-21 year olds do unpaid work for their benefits, whether that's scrubbing war monuments, graffitied walls or Tory MPs' shoes (joke).
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan slammed the findings in a statement to the Guardian. "These figures are astonishing," he said. "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."
So how has this happened? Katy Dawe from the youth charity Art Against Knives believes that these young people are being abandoned by government. "I think one of the biggest problems we have is our ability to engage with disengaged and disadvantaged groups," she told us. "I'd include ethnic minorities in that. We don't build relationships and engage with these communities."
"There's a lack of awareness about jobs that are out there. Beauty classes in college are so oversubscribed because girls think that if they don't get the grades there's nothing else they can do. I'd love to see more done in the early stages of education."
Dawe says she's been working with a 21-year-old black British Carribean kid from London, who can't find a job despite being on the hunt for two years. "He's been on so many placements that just aren't leading to employment," she said. "He's applying for job, sending CVs off to people and he's so ready for work."
Certified TV media entrepreneur Nick Asiama, 24, still remembers how hard it was for him to get a job before he ended up striking out on his own and founding his company. "What I learned in school, I barely need now," he said. "We need to be taught about CV building, about approaching a manager in a store, about interview technique. There are no practical scenarios being taught."
The Tories haven't disputed the findings, but have tried to pin the blame on the previous government. "Labour crashed the economy and put everyone’s financial security at risk, with the number of unemployed BAME people doubling last time they were in power," a spokesperson told the Guardian.
It doesn't exactly inspire confidence when the official response is "yeah, but you abandoned black kids too", but it isn't any more comforting to know that Labour's track record isn't much better.
Labour has today released its BAME manifesto, which outlines the party's approach to race equality. Read it here.
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