Employers must prepare for ethnically diverse population, report says

Organisations are being urged to take action now to adapt to changes in the UK population over the next 15 years, with a new report warning that the challenge of ensuring equal opportunities for ethnic minorities is going to get harder.

The report, entitled Race to the Future and released by Race for Opportunity (RfO), analyses ways of improving employment opportunities for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers and presents 15 recommendations for change. It draws on research published in July 2010 by the University of Leeds showing that the make-up of the British population is expected to change substantially, with predictions that more than one in five Britons will be from an ethnic minority by 2051.

Previous research undertaken by RfO in 2009 showed that ethnic minorities made up 7.3% of the population in 2000, rising to 10.3% at the end of 2007. The proportion of the employed population still lagged behind, growing from 5.4% to 8.5% over the same period.

The new report warns that if no action is taken, employers will fail to find jobs for all groups. This will not only widen the employment gap but may also lead to high levels of deprivation in some areas.

Among the recommendations for change is that organisations must focus on recruitment and, by ensuring that they recruit from the widest talent pool, put themselves in the best possible position to attract an increasingly sophisticated BAME consumer base.

It also flags up the important role that mentors can provide both in terms of boosting aspiration and for providing guidance to new entrepreneurs. The report argues that boosting the number of role models should be a priority for government, businesses, schools and the BAME communities themselves.

As part of the report, RfO has launched an interactive online bias assessment tool – Know Yourself – which enables individuals to identify their level of “bias” towards ethnicity, race, gender, disability and sexual orientation when recruiting at all levels.

Sandra Kerr, national director of RfO, said: “The changing population presents an immense opportunity if handled correctly by politicians, businesses and BAME workers. This report is a wake-up call to businesses and all organisations in the UK to recognise that they need to radically rethink how they go about recruiting people to ensure that ethnic minority employment in the UK is representative of its population – no matter how much it continues to change.”

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