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Ethnic Minorities and Employment

Ethnic Minorities and Employment


Please note: the Scottish Government uses ''minority ethnic' + noun, for example minority ethnic community or 'ethnic minorities' as opposed to BME or BAME. However, we recognise that any one term will not resonate with everyone and we support everyone's right to define themselves.

The Scottish Government believes that individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds enrich Scotland socially, culturally and economically.

However, minority ethnic people continue to experience greater labour market inequalities. They continue to have unequal and disproportionate access to employment and representation at all levels, grades and occupation types in Scotland’s workforce. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence suggests there is consistent disparity between labour outcomes for white and minority ethnic populations. The latest minority ethnic unemployment rate in Scotland is more than double the white unemployment rate.

We have also seen the alarming rate at which the pandemic has further widened some of the social and economic inequalities that minority ethnic communities experience.  This past year has also seen the Black Lives Matter protests, which shone a light on injustice and inequality and raised acute awareness of race and racism across society.

The Scottish Government will continue to tackle race inequality in employment and give full consideration to the impact of COVID-19 on labour market outcomes for minority ethnic communities.


The impact of Covid-19 on equality in Scotland

This Scottish Government paper reviews emerging evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on equality, including ethnicity, across several key domains: health, economic, education, safety and security, social and wellbeing, housing, digital, and environmental. It also considers the projected impacts of Brexit on equality and how these interact with COVID-19 impacts.

Race Equality, Employment and Skills: Making Progress?

The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee inquiry report evidences a lack of progress in tackling race equality in employment across the public sector. The report also stresses the need for Chief Executives and senior leaders within public authorities to demonstrate leadership in this area; and makes several key recommendations for public authorities, including the Scottish Government, to advance race equality across the public sector. 

Ethnicity and Diversity in the Scottish Workforce

Radiant and Brighter’s report seeks to understand ethnic diversity in the Scottish workplace, to understand what the barriers to true diversity are, as well as the impacts of any non-diverse workforces on Scotland’s prospective and actual employees. It outlines the level of challenge that exists for minority ethnic workers across workplaces in Scotland.

The People’s Recovery

This paper from the Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) combines short-term measures to rebuild Scotland’s economy with medium and longer-term measures to create a democratic and green economy and a society in which workers and their families have fair work, decent housing and a proper safety net.

Scotland’s Labour Market: People, Places and Regions – Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2019

This Scottish Government publication, whilst preceding the impact of the pandemic, reports on key indicators including: employment, equality characteristics of those in employment, underemployment, inactivity, and youth participation in the labour market.

Tackling race inequality in employment

Our vision for 2030, as set out in the Race Equality Framework, is that minority ethnic people have equal, fair and proportionate access to employment and representation at all levels, grades and occupation types in Scotland’s workforce and experience fewer labour market, workplace and income inequalities.

In September last year we published a Minority Ethnic Recruitment Toolkit to support employers in their recruitment of people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Building on the Toolkit, we are now developing guidance on how employers can use positive action to address under-representation, retention and progression of staff in their workforce.

Our Workplace Equality Fund, established in 2018, seeks collaborative projects between charities and private business/public bodies to address labour market barriers for certain groups including minority ethnic people.

Our Fund for 2020/21 provided funding across 12 projects to tackle workplace barriers for certain priority groups and six of these 12 projects supported employers to focus on equality issues faced by minority ethnic workers.

In March this year we held The Public Sector Leadership Summit on Race Equality in Employment to support and encourage public sector leaders to address the recommendations by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee Report: “Race Equality, Employment and Skills: Making Progress?”

The summit unveiled a joint commitment which pledges Scottish Government and public sector leaders to take forward key actions to tackle race inequality in the workforce, right through from recruitment to progression to progression.

If you would like to find out more about any of the aforementioned work, please contact the Scottish Government’s Race Employment Team at

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