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Black History Month and racial inequalities

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Does the Mayor agree with me that, as we come towards the end of another great Black History Month, it is unacceptable that the grandchildren of the Windrush generation in London who have graduated from university continue to experience higher unemployment and lower pay than white graduates?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Deputy Chairman. It is unacceptable that a person’s family background can have an impact on their employment opportunities. I am determined to do all I can to make London’s labour market more accessible and fairer for everyone. There are high rates of graduate unemployment and underemployment for black Londoners. We also know there are challenges that minority ethnic Londoners experience when trying to enter and progress in the labour market.

These issues need to be tackled on multiple levels with targeted action. Through our Good Work Standard, we are supporting employers to ensure their recruitment practices give all potential employees a fair chance and to monitor and take action to close their ethnicity pay gaps. We have led by example on this at the GLA, publishing and acting on our own pay gap data.

We have launched the Workforce Integration Network (WIN) to specifically focus on the under-representation of young black men in the workforce, whom we know have one of the biggest employment gaps. This currently focuses on the sporting, digital and construction sectors to be more inclusive employers and is an important step in changing workplace cultures.

I am also working with higher education institutions to improve access, progression and retention levels for students from minority ethnic backgrounds. I have recently commissioned, Deputy Chairman, further research into the specific issue raised by Assembly Member Arnold to better understand inequalities in degree classification and transitions to employment after higher education. We hope to report on this in spring 2020.

The steps before education and training are also essential. Without existing social or professional networks, it can be much harder for young Londoners to figure out their career paths and that is why we have expanded the HeadStart Programme to help bridge the gap between schools and employment.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Thank you for that. Two days ago I was with some black elders, many of whom were part of the Windrush regeneration, and we were having a conversation. The first thing they said to me was to feed back to you how they welcomed your mayoralty and so, on their behalf, I will pass that on.

I was also saddened when I asked them what one of their biggest disappointments was. What they told me was that their grandchildren were still having to face the sorts of insidious forms of racism that they had faced and had challenged. They were hoping that in 2019 their grandchildren would be in a better place. When you look at the 2016 survey that was done by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), it is clear that on many of our university campuses racism is commonplace. When you meet the higher education principals, will this be at the top of your agenda?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Firstly, thank you for your comments and your question. It will be.

Can I just say this? The elders will have said this to you, I am sure. My experience is that some of the language that you and I experienced in our younger years we thought had disappeared from the English language, but it has returned.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

That is why we must never be complacent and always be vigilant about racism. The P word, the N word and the Y word we thought had disappeared from the English language but are now being used again. There has been a spike in hate crime. Also, it affects attitudes. There can be unconscious bias in recruitment practices, universities and places of work, but also in how people are treated.

One of the reasons why we introduced last year Debbie Weekes-Bernard [Deputy Mayor for Social integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement] at the slavery commemoration event was to understand the legacy of not just slavery but some of the consequences of how the British Empire was resolved. You talked about the Windrush generation. We have to be alive to the institutional racism that exists in all major institutions and we are conscious of this, I reassure you.

Whenever I have conversations not just with universities and Further Education [FE] colleges but also with employers, I am keen to remind them that we should see ourselves as a beacon for the rest of the world and that includes in relation to discrimination, direct and indirect. I am always vigilant. Also, I reassure you that in the conversations I have with global CEOs and vice-chancellors, I talk about all Londoners having the opportunities and the helping hand that you and I had.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Thank you very much. Can you let me know in writing how you are getting on with the WIN initiative that has supported 200 young black men into employment opportunities? I would welcome that in writing, please.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Thank you very much.