London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

In Mayor’s Question Time, I challenged Boris Johnson on his failure to assist the thousands of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates in London that leave university but can’t find employment. When I asked him what he is doing specifically to help BAME graduates find work, he failed to offer any answers and even turned the blame back on young Londoners for not being willing to take the existing jobs.

Many ethnic minority young people are better qualified than their white British peers, but are up to three times as likely to be unemployed once they enter the labour market. Only 11% of the Mayor’s senior staff members are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups (2 out of 18), and none of the organisations the Mayor is accountable for come close to representing the diversity of London’s workforce, which reaffirms just how out of touch he is with the diversity of London today.

As Manchester University’s recent report shows, over the past decade, we’ve seen a fabulous rise in the number of people from minority ethnic groups obtaining a degree, with several minority groups outperforming their white British peers. Yet unemployment rates amongst young ethnic minority graduates remain up to three times as high as white Brits.

Time and time again, we hear Boris celebrating the diversity of our great city, but his words mean nothing if he fails to offer real solutions for young, ethnic minority graduates. We are in a position whereby there is very quickly becoming a lost generation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates.

He should lead by example and work as hard as possible to ensure his own teams are representative of the diversity of London, but the figures prove otherwise. He’s had 6 years as Mayor to address the diversity of his immediate Mayoral Team, but a paltry 2 members of staff (11%) are from BAME ethnic groups. 30.3% of London’s working population is BAME, but none of the bodies the Mayor has oversight for come close to this figure. Workplace figures for all parts of the GLA Group that the Mayor has oversight of do not reflect BAME working population figures for London (Metropolitan Police Officers has 10.5%; the Greater London Authority at City Hall has 24% with the majority of these on lower pay grades; and TfL has 27%, which is down from previous years).

It’s clear to me that, when it comes to diversity, Boris is very good at being the “PR politician”, giving the impression that he takes diversity seriously, but, once again, failing to put these empty words into action. The Mayor must be held accountable for his failure, and I will continue to push as hard as I can to champion the cause of young BAME graduates.

At yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time, I called on Mayor Boris Johnson to use his powers and money to help young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Londoners who are being disproportionately affected by the high rates of unemployment – through dedicated skills, education and training programmes to get people off the unemployment register and into work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s recent report, Labour market status by ethnic group, shows that the unemployment rate among Pakistani and Bangladeshi people aged 16-24 is 46%, and for young Black people it is 45%, compared with 19% for White British people aged between 16-24.

The Mayor has a responsibility to ensure that all BME Londoners have the same opportunities as other people in London, and I am very concerned that the Government’s own figures suggest that this is not the case across our city and across my constituency of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. Levels of unemployment across all groups in London are unacceptable – and I’m a firm advocate of policies aimed at full employment – but the disproportionate rates of joblessness for BME people are simply disgraceful.

The Mayor agreed with my point in Mayor’s Question Time, which is a start, but I remain concerned that he couldn’t give me specific details about the programmes he has put in place to specifically target young BME Londoners to help them find employment.

Since yesterday’s meeting, I have written to the Mayor to ask him for specific details of any programmes he has put in place to help tackle unemployment and support young BME people to get the skills and qualifications needed to enter the job market. I repeat my call for him to put his words into action and ensure that all Londoners – regardless of ethnicity – can benefit from the job opportunities that our great city can offer.