Unemployment effects hit white men hard, research says

Wednesday 7 September 2016 

Being out of work can significantly cut the chances of finding a job a decade later, with white men among the hardest hit, research shows.

Dr Carolina V. Zuccotti and Professor Jacqueline O'Reilly, of the University of Brighton, analysed census data on 57,385 people aged 16-29 in 2001 in England and Wales to study the long-term effects of unemployment on young people of different ethnicity.

Of white British young people who were not in work or in education in 2001, only 59% of men and 50% of women were employed in 2011, they will tell the British Sociological Association's conference on work, employment and society in Leeds today [Wednesday 7 September].

In contrast, more than 93% of young white British men and around 85% of young British women who were studying or working in 2001 had a job in 2011.

The effect of being out of work or education in 2001 also reduced young people's chances of having a professional or managerial job in 2011, with only 23% of white British men and 19% women achieving this – while the average probability of achieving this position for the entire population studied was more than 40%.

When factors such as growing up in a poor neighbourhood and having limited education were excluded, people who were not employed or in education in 2001 were 18% points less likely to be employed in 2011 than those who were employed.

People from ethnic minorities were affected to different extents, the researchers found.

Men from south Asian ethic minorities were less affected by previous unemployment or inactivity than white men – of those who were not in work or education in 2001, 78% of Indian ethnicity and 65% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi were employed in 2011, compared with 59% of white British men.

When factors such as growing up in a poor neighbourhood and having limited education were excluded, south Asian young men who were not in work or in education in 2001 were between 5% and 10% points more likely to be employed in 2011 than their white British counterparts.

"We observe that young men from ethnic minority backgrounds who were not working or studying in 2001 have similar or even higher probabilities of being in work in 2011 as compared to the white British," Dr Zuccotti will tell the conference.

"The fact that some ethnic minorities are less penalized from previous unemployment or inactivity compared to some of their white British counterparts is in part good news in terms of integration processes.

"However, significant concerns remain regarding employment probabilities among young white British men, but also among ethnic minority women, who are increasingly left behind."

Women from ethnic minorities in particular, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, had lower employment levels in 2011 as compared to the white British, even after individual and class background characteristics are taken into consideration.

She will say that the reason for this might not solely be because of discrimination by employers. "While discrimination might be part of the story, cultural values might certainly be part of the explanations."

The data examined by the researchers included people who had arrived in the UK as children or grown up in the UK.


1. The researchers used data from the ONS Longitudinal Study on 57,385 people in England and Wales, aged 16-29 in 2001 and then followed up in 2011 when the participants were 10 years older, and so aged 26 to 39. The focus was on people who arrived as children or grew up in the UK.

2. The British Sociological Association’s Work, Employment and Society conference takes place from 6-8 September 2016 at the University of Leeds.

3. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235


For more information, please contact:

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392