BLACK MEN are failing to get jobs because employers perceive them as violent gang members and criminals as seen in TV shows like Top Boy, new research claims.
A study by the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG), which recorded the views of 200 young black men about their experiences of finding work in London, concluded that persistent prejudice was keeping them out of the job market.
They also raised concerns about ineffective government measures.
Figures revealed that the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-old black men (20.4 per cent) is higher than young men and women in all other ethnic groups.
According to BTEG all of the survey’s participants had applied for jobs in the last six months and 50 per cent had applied for 100 or more jobs, but almost half (46 per cent) had failed to be shortlisted.
The results come despite improvements in education attainment and higher rates of post-16 education.
One jobseeker said: “Because black males are not shown in the best way in the public eye – people stereotype them [as being] in gangs.”
Another added: “As soon as you get in the interview room you can see from their faces that you are not going to get the job.”
Jeremy Crook OBE, director of BTEG, said the lack of progress in achieving fair employment practices was “unacceptable.” He called for a focus on creating more “positive portrayals of young black men in the media and amongst employers.”
Joy Warmington, director of equalities organisation Brap, said she was not surprised by the findings.
“The cards are stacked against black men and unfortunately our legislation doesn’t appear to have any impact at all,” she added. “It is time we took organisations to task about the way they deal with promotion and recruitment.”
Warmington also called for a change in the culture within organisations: “If you do manage to get black people into companies, but fail to address the culture, you put people into an environment that they can’t really be a part of and can’t progression in.”
Omar Khan, acting director of race equality think tank Runnymede Trust, agreed that current measures are not working.
He said: “Neither the work programme nor the apprenticeship scheme are yielding positive results for ethnic minorities generally or young black men in particular. We need something much more targeted.”
He added: “If government spent half as much time as they do trying to deny the statistics, actually doing something about the problem maybe we will see some improvement.”
Bharat Mehta, chief executive of Trust for London, who commissioned the research, agreed that “much more needs to happen.”
His organisation has launched a new grants programme aimed at helping young black men into work.
“It is important that we now focus on working with employers and find ways to ensure that their recruitment results are not being influenced by the negative stereotypes of young black men as criminals or in gangs,” said Crook.
BTEG’s report included an action plan which proposes more support from Job Centre advisers and the creation of more networks and pathways into employment for young black men.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told The Voice: “Every day up and down the country our Jobcentre advisers and Work Programme providers are helping people from all backgrounds off benefits and into work as part of the Government’s long term economic plan. Employment is rising, unemployment is falling and there are more people from ethnic minorities in work than ever before.
“The diversity of this country means we take an approach that tailors help to individual job seekers, rather than simply defining people’s needs by their ethnicity.”