Half of BAME citizens fear Brexit may impact career progression

01 February 2019 Consultancy.uk

With the end of the Brexit saga looming into view as the Government continues to fail to deliver a deal, Britain’s BAME community is increasingly afraid that leaving the EU is going to impact society’s views on racism, and their future employability. According to a new survey, 52% of BAME citizens fear their career progression will be impacted by Brexit, while 62% anticipate it will have a negative impact on UK society more broadly.

With a much-feared ‘No Deal’ scenario still on the cards, and the UK political class seemingly agreed that, either way, free movement and trade between the UK and the mainland must end to curb migration, the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017 has already led to various undesirable outcomes. The impact of Brexit already includes an increasingly hostile atmosphere not only for EU migrants, but for UK residents of various ethnicities. According to a new study from professional services firm Equality Group, more than half of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Britons expect Brexit will negatively change society’s attitudes toward race, as well as fearing this will stifle their future career prospects.

This makes particularly troubling reading at present, as it follows a report published last year by the UK’s police watchdog that issued a stark warning of what may be to come for British society following the culmination of Brexit. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services warned of a “real possibility” that Britain’s exit from the European Union in March 2019 could trigger a spike in hate crimes, as a victims’ group warned of a return to a climate of hostility such as that seen in the 1990s.

% of people mindful or concerned about the impact of Brexit on professional and societal culture

The inspectorate concluded that hate crimes usually spiked after events such as terrorist attacks, which were witnessed during the summer of 2016, but even accounting for that, the UK saw a surge of such instances during the Brexit campaign, and then a 40% boom after the vote to leave the EU in June 2016. The report also found large-scale failings in the way hate crimes were dealt with, despite the issue supposedly being a priority, suggesting that worse could be to come if lessons are not learned.

Changing attitudes

Equality Group’s poll found that an astonishing 62% of BAME respondents were either mindful or concerned that Brexit could have an impact on professional and societal culture. While the demographic remains acutely aware of the potential for racism and other forms of bigotry to once again become common place in British society, however, their non-BAME equivalents are far less cautious. Just over a third of white respondents noted concerns about rising levels of prejudice in society.

When considering a regional breakdown of these figures, what is interesting is that the locales which are most concerned about the effects of Brexit are not necessarily those which feature a large BAME population. While, according to 2011 census figures, London is the highest concentration of BAME individuals – with 40.2% of residents identifying with the demographic – the North West of England is significantly more concerned with the impact of Brexit on society’s attitudes. 9.2% of citizens in that region were BAME according to census data, yet 40% of the region fears for how Brexit will impact Britain’s culture, compared to London’s 38%.

% of people who suspect Brexit will negatively impact their career progression

While London’s respondents still remain the third most concerned in this regard, this could be said to reflect the city’s close ties to Europe, as well as fears that smaller BAME communities are easier targets for discrimination. This is reflected by the fact that the region most worried about Brexit’s impact on the career prospects is the North East.

In an area of the UK which has been traditionally neglected by consecutive governments, where unemployment remains high and state investment remains low, the region is particularly fearful of Brexit’s impacts. 24% of individuals there said they were worried about the possibility that leaving the EU could hurt career progression. The region hosts the lowest level of BAME communities in England and Wales, yet its concerns on potential workplace discrimination remain higher than even London.

Hidden barriers

When considering ethnicity alone, the national picture once again paints a drastic contrast between BAME and non-BAME individuals, meanwhile. Only 16% of non-BAME respondents told Equality Group that they thought Brexit might impact their career progression. Among BAME participants, that figure rose to more than half of respondents, at 52%. According to Equality Group, that figure represents almost three million citizens in the UK.

Before Brexit has even been realised, a yawning pay-gap between BAME and non-BAME citizens persists well into the modern day, with an audit of public-sector pay in London carried out for Mayor Sadiq Khan finding BAME staff were paid up to 37% less on average. Ethnic diversity in British boardrooms is also lagging almost two decades behind female representation at the top level, while fewer than 2% of British directors from FTSE 150 companies are black, Asian or minority ethnic. With the state of play so poor, BAME citizens are understandably concerned that Brexit could present an opportunity for businesses and society to renege on what little progress has been made.

Commenting on what could be done to help BAME citizens feel more secure in an uncertain future, Hephzi Pemberton, Founder of Equality Group, told Consultancy.uk, “Everyone has the right to work in a fair and professional environment, regardless of the current political environment. This research demonstrates that the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic community believe that Brexit will negatively impact their career. This is unacceptable and more needs to be done to reassure this community that the UK’s social and professional arenas will not be negatively impacted. Throughout the political upheaval and furore, politicians and business leaders have a responsibility to ensure that all employees feel supported in times like the one we are currently experiencing.”

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UK manufacturing sees orders slow amid Brexit anxiety

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Manufacturing in the UK saw negative growth for the end of 2018, reflecting a wider slowdown in the UK economy to 0.2% for the quarter, followed by three months at the start of 2019 which saw continued softening in orders. With uncertainty still hitting the sector ahead of Brexit’s deferred deadline, the industry faces a difficult 2019.

Despite a perpetually changing economic landscape, manufacturing remains a keystone industry in the UK. Optimism in the industry has been riding high in recent years, reflecting the perceived potential of automotive technologies, but last year saw a slight dip in business performance, ahead of what seems set to be a turbulent period for British manufacturing. Ordinarily, the sector might have expected to recover its footing relatively quickly, but with the looming spectre of Brexit making the economy’s future completely uncertain, this has not been the case.

The uncertainties of Brexit have continued to create headaches for companies on both sides of the channel. As contingency planning continues, new analysis from BDO and the Make UK explores how manufacturing – a segment likely to be hard hit by Brexit – has fared in the final quarter of 2018.

Output balance stable

Manufacturing remains a key industry in the UK, generating around 10% of total economic output and supporting around 2.7 million jobs. Yet while the industry has seen a number of years of strong optimism as well as demand, Brexit is set to throw a spanner in the works, with a range of manufacturing companies leaving the UK, or considering it. Indeed, UK manufacturing’s output currently sits at a 15-month low as the industry anticipates a cliff edge Brexit.

In terms of growth for various parts of the UK economy, a slowdown was noted in the final quarter of 2018 compared to Q4 2017. Manufacturing, in particular, saw growth declines coming in at almost -1%, with a similar trend in production. Construction saw a sharp contraction, falling 2 percentage points to below 0% growth in December 2018. Only services managed to have positive % growth in the final quarter. The final quarter as a whole saw growth of 0.2% in the UK economy – the lowest level in six years.

Output across most sectors in the industry remains positive, with the percentage balance of change in output at 22%. The result is the tension quarter of positive percentage balance of change, with stagnation on the final quarter of 2018. The firm is projecting a slight softening of output going into Q2 2019. The firm notes that there is some stockpiling taking place, with orders and outputs unaligned going into 2019.

Order balance remains positive but dips further

While there is a broadly positive picture for output, the firm does note considerable differences between subsectors. Basic metals for instance, saw a net 24% fall to -18% over the past three months. Metal production is also seeing relatively poor performance as demand from the automotive industry enters a period of acute uncertainty. However, most industries are to see improved output on balance, with rubber & plastic increasing from a net 11% to net 56%.

Export trade

Having been buoyed by the lowered value of the pound, UK export orders are up slightly on the previous quarter, but remain well below the most recent peak in Q3 2018. Domestic orders were relatively strong, with a year between the most recent peaks for the segment. However, Q2 2019 looks to see domestic orders fall sharply, to half Q1’s result, while export orders too are set to see declines.

The decline reflects a decrease in basic metals, possibly a reflection of changes affecting the auto industry. Meanwhile, export orders are down due to Brexit cross-border uncertainty – the effect of the sterling devaluation unable to continue to buoy the market. Basic metals and metal products are both in negative territory for the coming three months.

Investment and employment intentions

UK employment figures reached new milestones, with total unemployment down to 3.9% while participation rates hit record highs. Employment planning continues to be in net positive territory, with a net positive balance of 22% in Q1 2019. The coming months are projected to see a slight dip, again, largely resultant from uncertainties around Brexit. Basic metals is the sector most likely to see a negative trend, reflecting the expected decline in orders.

Investment intentions meanwhile continue to be in positive territory. However, again, the now acute uncertainty about Brexit – the UK government has boxed itself into a corner – mean that confidence around investment could wane rapidly.

Commenting on the wider economy, Peter Hemington, a Partner at BDO, said, “Manufacturing firms have been ramping up their preparations for a disorderly Brexit, in large part through the stockpiling of imported goods. This has had the effect of inflating activity levels… It’s too late to do anything about this now.  But a disorderly Brexit would be far worse than the current relatively mild slowdown, possibly disastrously so… We are concerned it looks more likely than ever that we will exit the EU without a deal.”