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Helping Pakistanis and Bangladeshis into work...
Helping Pakistanis and Bangladeshis into work

Pakistanis and Bangladeshis face multiple barriers to finding employment, according to IES research for the Department of Work and Pensions. Language, health, and lack of relevant skills, as well as cultural gender roles, rather than discrimination for race or religion, make it difficult for many to find suitable employment.

The report concludes that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis face multiple barriers to finding employment. Research in five population concentrations: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow and Tower Hamlets, London, focused on the concerns.

The main Pakistani immigration came from rural and low-skill areas into manufacturing centres in the UK, since when these have fallen into decline. The later Bangladeshi immigration occurred during severe recession, but again involved those with lower educational and skill backgrounds. The resulting profile for both groups includes: many older men with poor health; generally low skills and English language fluency; and women bearing family responsibilities rather than employment. A preference to stay and seek work within cultural enclaves adds to their difficulties in finding jobs.

Barriers to employment

Poor English language skills underly several other labour market difficulties.

For many of the men aged 40 to 60, age and health are a combined problem.

A major issue is lack of 'human capital' - the fact that many have outdated, limited or irrelevant skills for modern-day available jobs.

Large numbers of children, coupled with reluctance to consider non-family childcare, keep working-age mothers out of the labour market for long periods.


On the whole, being Muslim is not a significant barrier, other than ruling out certain places of work (eg, handling pork, gambling, serving alcohol or where dress codes cannot be observed). Profession of faith per se was not an obstacle.

Reported racial discrimination is low, though perceived discrimination is strong. To what degree this results from persistent lack of success finding work, or whether response to Asian names (racial) or dress (religion) does reveal discrimination, was not a part of this research.

Action for change

Specific targets

Asian populations are not homogeneous. As the lowest-achieving minority groups, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis require specific government targets for employment, perhaps also set by gender.

Language and skills

The current ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) infrastructure is clearly ineffective. Abolition of ESOL would only further disadvantage these groups, but tapping into voluntary and community providers would be cheaper and more flexible in terms of multilingual capacity, women-only provision, and accessibility for those needing childcare. Their more formal incorporation could improve both spoken and written language skills.

Information, advice and guidance

Awareness of access to training as much as to jobs needs to expand beyond the informal channels mainly used, in a way that is not seen to undermine cultural bonds and preferences. Partnership between public and voluntary sectors could be used to raise awareness, confidence, and dynamism among sub-groups (women, older generation, people not fluent in English, recent migrants etc.) who have never participated in the labour market.

Employer-led provision

Government incentives for employer-led provision of training to reach out and develop these potential labour markets is needed (as in Birmingham's Bullring redevelopment). This would raise awareness of local employers and job opportunities among the communities but also underpin the concept of specific targets for employment. In turn, it would provide pre-employment experience, or for some, confidence and skills in self-employment.

The study

Research by IES for DWP comprised a literature review, key expert interviews, labour market analysis of the five areas, a survey of 1,000 employing organisations in the areas, and in-depth interviews with Pakistani and Bangladeshi jobseekers and non-jobseekers

Barriers to Employment for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain. Tackey N D, Casebourne J, Aston J, Ritchie H, Sinclair A, Tyers C, Hurstfield J, Willison R, Page R. DWP, September 2006. DWP Research Report 360

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