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Ethnic Minorities


In the 2011 Census, 96% of the population in Scotland described their ethnicity as 'white' (this includes people from Polish and Gypsy / Traveller communities) whilst 4% described their ethnicity as 'non white' (this includes people from Asian, African, Caribbean and mixed backgrounds). The proportion of the non white population in Scotland has increased by two percentage points since the 2001 census. Cultural minority groups such as Polish and Gypsies / Travellers may also be classified as ethnic minorities when looking at employability issues, although they are part of the above white population figures.

Whilst there are variations within the group, ethnic minorities overall have lower employment and higher inactivity rates than the general population. Annual Population Survey data for Scotland shows that in 2012:

·          The employment rate for ethnic minorities was 60% compared to 71% amongst the white population.

·          The economic inactivity rate for ethnic minorities was 33%, compared to 23% amongst the white population.

Barriers Faced

Ethnic minority groups can face a number of barriers to employment, including:

·          Lower levels of education and skills (among certain ethnic minority groups only).

·          Less proficiency in English.

·          Little awareness of available support services and in some cases perceptions that services will not understand their needs.

·          Discrimination from employers.

·          Residence in deprived areas, which can lead to further difficulties gaining employment (70% of ethnic minorities live in the most deprived local authority districts in Scotland, compared with 40% of the general population).

·          Cultural issues - for example, there may be family pressure not to register as unemployed.

In addition to the barriers above, ethnic minority women can be particularly disadvantaged due to cultural pressures and expectations. Annual Population Survey data for Scotland shows that in 2012:

·          The ethnic minority female employment rate was 47%, compared with 68% among white females.

·          The ethnic minority female economic inactivity rate was 47%, compared to 27% for working age white females.

These figures hide variations across different ethnic minority groups. For example:

·          Pakistani/Bangladeshi female employment rate is 40%.

·          Black African/Caribbean female employment rate is 53%.

·          Indian female employment rate is 57%.

Policies and Interventions

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting equality of opportunity and social justice for all of Scotland's residents. The government is keen to tackle discrimination and prejudice and challenge the systems, behaviours and attitudes that cause or sustain these. It runs the One Scotland: No Place for Racism campaign, aimed at tackling racism. The campaign is intended to raise awareness of racist attitudes, highlight its negative impact and recognise the valuable contributions that other cultures have made to our society and ultimately end racism in Scotland.

The Scottish Government recognises the importance of increasing employment rates for specific groups who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Working for Growth, the refreshed Employability Framework published in 2012, recognises this and sets out its expectation that where appropriate, local employability partnerships will develop specific interventions to support unemployed people from an ethnic minority background.
With low proficiency in English language being a barrier to employment for some ethnic minorities, the Adult ESOL Strategy for Scotland was launched in 2007. Following this, national resources such as the ESOL Curriculum Framework were developed, encouraging providers and practitioners of ESOL to consider people's motivations for learning the English language, including employability. Employability currently remains a key focus in the learning and teaching of ESOL in Scotland.

The Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. It brought together nine separate pieces of legislation into one. The majority of the provisions came into force on 1 October 2010. The following are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act (2010):

·          Age

·          Disability

·          Gender reassignment

·          Marriage and civil partnership

·          Pregnancy and maternity

·          Race

·          Religion or belief

·          Sex

·          Sexual orientation

The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings under the Act. 

The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas including employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions. In addition a Public Sector Equality Duty came into force in April 2011. It assigned public bodies (and others discharging public functions, such as third sector organisations) the following duties:

·          Eliminating unlawful discrimination.

·          Advancing equality of opportunity. 

·          Fostering good relations.

Specific duties within the Act require fit-for-purpose equality monitoring to be undertaken, at both national and local levels. As a result, a number of listed public authorities in Scotland are now required to publish a set of equality outcomes and to report on progress every two years. The specific duties also require the listed public authorities to undertake Equality Impact Assessment of new or revised policies and practices and to consider relevant evidence when making their assessments.


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