Glasgow ‘Fails BME Communities’

Scotland’s largest city has been accused of failing to do enough to address the employment and vocational training needs of its black and minority ethnic population. A new report criticises past action in Glasgow as “piecemeal” and “start-stop” in nature in a city it says is entering a defining period in its economic and social development.

The Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (GARA) has urged more to be done, collectively and individually, by the city’s key players, funders and stakeholders, to address the work needs of the 39,000-strong BME community.

It claims the BME population plays an increasingly important part of its economy with a proportionately higher number of working age people than the general population. Unless measures are taken, warns the document, BME communities would continue to be “an under-utilised pool of talent which the city of Glasgow cannot afford, economically, financially or socially.”

“Future action,” says Gara, “should be orientated towards fulfilling goals rather than necessarily increasing the number of initiatives, processes or separate projects.”

The paper examines the issues it says are vital for advancing the full and fair participation of BME people and groups in the city’s economic life and simultaneously contributing to its competitiveness.

“Challenging Worklessness and Underemployment of Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Glasgow” explores demographics and education along with essential elements for understanding issues in employment and economic activity. “This analysis, “it says, “shows that treating BME people and groups as a homogeneous mass is unjustified, given the variation in educational attainment and employment type between and within groups.”

It claims to throw light on the relevant “race” aspects of processes in Glasgow and Scotland, an example being community planning. “We argue that there is a strong case for strengthening the thematic work in parallel with geographically based approaches to regeneration to offer better performance and value in terms of improved outcomes for BME people and communities.” Gara argues the potential of positive action under the Race Relations Act has not been fully exploited.

It expresses hope the Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland’s move to create a Positive Action network can support the use of the code by providing a practical ‘way in’.

“It has to be acknowledged, however, that racially targeted interventions, although they have untapped potential, are insufficient on their own to ensure equity for BME groups in terms of access to and participation in the labour market. Some of the core of what employers do has to shift to make a large and lasting difference, for instance much more rigorous ethnic monitoring that feeds back into company policies and practices.”

The report maintains institutional and other racism has to be acknowledged as a real and present force in British society and that Glasgow and Scotland are no exceptions. “The more we can do collectively to make sure that our workplaces reflect the diversity of our society, the more our chances of building cohesive, safe and vibrant communities in Glasgow increase.”

Sadly it is the case that it is easier to write policies than to implement them. This appears to hold true for race quality as much as anything else. “In terms of its demography, it is clear in the next few years Glasgow will see BME people representing an increasing percentage of the working age population. However, these same people continue to face different barriers to their employability, including racism and discrimination.”

A Scottish Enterprise Glasgow spokesman told TFN: “Clearly we welcome any new research that highlights skills issues with particular groups. I’m sure this will be extremely valuable in helping us to target our service more effectively in the future.”