From the TUC

Growth of insecure work has added to labour market disadvantage for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

02 Jun 2017, by in Labour market

The growth of insecure work has exacerbated the inequalities that Black, Asian and minority (BAME) ethnic workers already face. The experience of insecure work differs between different ethnic groups, but the overall pattern is one in which BAME workers are significantly disadvantaged in the labour market.

Previous TUC analysis showed that there are 3.2 million people who face insecurity in work in the UK, either because they are working on a contract that does not guarantee decent employment rights ( including zero hours contracts, agency and casual work), or because they are in low paid self-employment ( earning less than the government’s National Living Wage).

While 1.7 million of this group are in low paid self employment, 1.5 million are employed, but still risk missing out on key rights. These include family friendly rights including maternity, paternity, and adoption leave, the right to an itemised pay slip, and protection from unfair dismissal.

This new TUC report finds BAME groups are over a third more likely than White workers to be in this ‘employed but insecure’ group and stuck in temporary or zero-hours work,. The analysis found that 1 in 13 BAME employees were in insecure jobs, compared to 1 in 20 White employees. That means that nearly a quarter of a million BAME employees in the UK are in zero-hours or temporary work.

Black workers in particular face insecurity at work, and are more than twice as likely as White workers to be in temporary and zero-hours work. A very striking 1 in 8 Black workers face this type of insecurity.

Insecure employees in 2016

Insecure employees in 2016

BAME workers’ experience of temporary work

Not only are the Black community over twice as likely to be in temporary work than the average,   they have also experienced the largest increase in the number of people in temporary jobs between 2011 and 2016, at 58 percent, compared to an 11 per cent increase for all temporary workers.

Change in temporary work from 2011- 2016 by ethnicity

Change in temporary work from 2011- 2016 by ethnicity
Source ONS nesstar – average of quarters

Looking at the growth in temporary work for the Black community in a little more detail shows us how different types of labour market disadvantage interact, with women seeing an 82 per cent increase in temporary work between 2011 and 2016 (compared to a 37 per cent increase for men).

Black temporary workers by gender 2011 and 2016

Black temporary workers by gender 2011 and 2016

Source ONS nesstar- average of quarters

When further breaking this down by occupation, the most common occupation for Black temporary workers (using the wider definition of temporary work which includes fixed term contracts) is ‘caring personal services’ at 17.1 percent, the average for all temporary workers in this occupation is 4.6 percent.

Involuntary temporary work, that is, those working on a temporary basis as they cannot find permanent work (rather than out of a preference for this type of work) is on average around 31 percent. For the Black community however it is significantly higher, at 42 percent. Close to half of this group who are in temporary work are there because they could not find permanent work, reflecting the fact that Black workers have significantly fewer choices in the labour market.

Involuntary temporary* work 2016 by ethnicity

Black temporary workers by gender 2011 and 2016

Source ONS nesstar- average of quarters

* In this table temporary work – includes all temporary work i.e. fixed term contracts

Zero hours contracts and BAME workers

The latest published data for the number of people employed on ‘zero- hours contracts’, based on the Labour Force Survey ( October – December 2016) is 905,000. When breaking down zero hours contracts data by ethnicity we find a very similar pattern to that of the breakdown of temporary workers. The proportion of the Black community in all employment on zero hours contracts is almost 5 percent, this is almost 1 in 20, whereas the national average is around 1 in 36.

Proportion in zero hours contracts  ( of all employment) 2016 by ethnicity 

Proportion in zero hours contracts ( of all employment) 2016 by ethnicity

Source ONS

In general women are slightly more likely to be on zero hour contracts (at 52 per cent of the total), , yet for Black women it is around 60 percent. Around 5.5 percent of Black women in all employment are on zero hours contracts compared to around 4 percent of men.

Proportion in zero hours contracts of all employment- 2016 – by ethnicity and  gender

Change in temporary work from 2011- 2016 by ethnicity

Source ONS nesstar – Average of q2 + q4 data – note figures may vary slightly from published ONS release


Whereas the earlier analysis showed that the Black community were disproportionately in temporary work and zero hours contracts, when it comes to self-employment it is the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community that stand out. In 2011, when the average self-employment rate was 13.8 percent, the Pakistani community experienced a self-employment rate almost twice that at 25.3 percent. In 2016 while the Pakistani self–employment rate remained above 20 percent the self-employment rate for the Bangladeshi community almost doubled to 20.3 percent, and the Pakistani and Bangladeshi self-employment rates are significantly above the UK average. While the self-employment rate of the Black community remains below the UK average it did increase significantly by 4.3 percentage points during 2011 to 2016.

Self-employment by ethnicity 2011- 2016    

Self-employment by ethnicity 2011- 2016

Source ONS – data average of quarters

Overall men are more likely to be in self-employment, the UK average is around 19 percent, however for the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community it is 29 and 24 percent. And when breaking this down further by minor occupation, almost 50 percent (48%) of male self- employed Pakistani and Bangladeshi are ‘road transport drivers’, a low paid self-employed occupation.


The TUC is calling on the next government to take steps to address the disadvantage faced by BAME workers, and to tackle the growth in insecure work. The next government should:

  • Ban mandatory zero-hours contracts, with guaranteed hours offered to all workers;
  • Ensure everyone at work to get the same rights as an employee, unless the employer can show that they are genuinely self-employed;
  • Give all workers to have a right to a written statement of terms, conditions and working hours, from day one;
  • End the pay penalty for agency workers, and ensure they get the going rate for the job;
  • Require employers to publish ethnic monitoring reports on recruitment, pay, and employment type;
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees;
  • Allow trade unions access to all workplaces to help improve pay and conditions.