Elham Asaad Buaras
Muslim youths face significant disadvantage in finding work despite achieving an ‘above average level’ of academic qualifications, according to research by an award winning youth employment charity.
Elevation Networks (EN) analysed census data together with recently published research to highlight employment inequalities faced by young Muslims living in England and Wales.
The study found that the Muslim youth unemployment rate is the highest of any religious group; 15.4 percent of young Muslims were unemployed compared to 11.9 percent of all religious groups aged 16-24. Young Muslims were also far less likely to be offered employment than any other religious group of the same age, with young Muslim men being worse affected than women.
Despite the higher unemployment rate, young Muslims continue to outperform academically, with 16.3 percent of young Muslims holding a qualification of Level 4 – equivalent to a Higher National Certificate, certificate of higher education or above – compared to 14 percent of young people from all religions.
The study, which featured Muslim youth employment across England and Wales, found that young Muslims in the West Midlands were most likely to be unemployed than in any other region – 16.9 percent of Muslims aged 16-24 were unemployed compared to 13.3 percent for all 16-24 year olds.
EN Chief Executive, Barbara Kasumu, said: “Young Muslims face multiple barriers when transitioning from education to the labour market. Discrimination and racism still exist within recruitment and the workplace, while young Muslims are at a greater risk of being discriminated against because of negative religious stereotypes.”
She added; “We need to recognise that Islamophobia is very much a big issue in the UK. There doesn’t seem to be enough focus politically on dealing with the challenges that Muslim communities face.”
Young Muslim mothers were also more likely to be ‘economically inactive’ whilst caring for young children and less likely to be engaged with employment support and advice compared to other groups, leaving them at greater risk of being ‘locked out’ of employment.
EN called for action to improve the employment outcomes for high-achieving young Muslims suggesting, “Employment agencies in areas where there are high Muslim populations should receive cultural awareness training and be encouraged to employ people from Muslim communities.”
Developing greater awareness of vocational pathways to employment through apprenticeships among young Muslim groups as an alternative to the academic route is needed.
A campaign to encourage parents to stay economically active even if they chose to remain as carers beyond the 52 statutory maternity leave period, including activities such as volunteering and undertaking courses to develop new skills.
M G Khan of Muslim Youthwork Foundation, told The Muslim News, EN’s “helpful” research comes as “no surprise to many young Muslims looking for an entry into a professional field after university or college. The journey to this point often leaves individuals indebted to others in many different ways not least financially, to find only call centres are interested in employing them.”
Dr Khan a Tutor at Ruskin College, Oxford in Community Development and Youth Work said, “It is to the credit of young people that despite these obstacles faced by their peers and older siblings, that they still find the motivation to study and see it as their path to improving their lives and those of their families.”