Half of BAME citizens fear Brexit may impact career progression

01 February 2019 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read
More news on

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.”