New body EMAG launched to help ethnic minorities into work

A new independent body has been launched today to help ethnic minorities find work, with its chairman warning of tough measures against organisations that lack minority ethnic staff.

The Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG), made up of 22 representatives from across the ethnic community, has been created as part of the government’s welfare reform agenda to boost employment opportunities for ethnic minorities. At 60%, ethnic minority employment is 15% lower than the UK’s national average.

Minister for employment and chair of the government’s Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force (EMETF), Jim Murphy, said the new advisory group was a way of getting to the heart of ethnic communities to find out the best ways to close the employment gap.

Iqbal Wahhab will be the first chair of the EMAG and is also a member of the EMETF. He said the new body would lobby for the government to undertake “a series of powerful and affirmative measures designed to target both public and private sector employment practices”.

He warned that “where we find these to be lacking in terms of ethnic minority representation, we will be calling for action to be taken against those organisations”.

“Reducing unemployment levels among ethnic minorities is not just a question of fairness,” Wahhab said. “These communities are more likely to live in poverty and as we have seen within Muslim areas, unemployment and deprivation can lead to anti-social behaviour. I believe that with a tough, concerted and committed approach, we can help close this gap.”

The EMAG will provide advice on a series of measures being introduced as part of the welfare reform bill, including the new City Strategy. This aims to give local representatives of disadvantaged communities greater flexibility over funding designed to address unemployment.

Further steps to increase employment opportunity, such as the regeneration of the East London area in the run up to the 2012 Olympics, and looking to engage employers and increase diversity in the workplace, are also part of EMAG’s remit.

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