Diverse youth believe their identity(s) are barrier to employment

Diverse young people feel their protected characteristics are barring them from employment

Diverse youth believe their ethnicity and gender are barriers to employment, according to a new study by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

Diverse youth and perceived barriers to employment

Out of the 1,000 people aged between 16-21 that took part in the survey, 45% of mixed-race respondents thought their ethnicity might hinder their chances of having a successful job application or interview. This rose to 50% for Asian respondents and 63%, the highest, for young Black jobseekers.

The study also revealed gender as a perceived barrier to candidate success in employment, with 38% of females surveyed believing it may affect their job application compared to 26% of males.

The survey also revealed that if firms made certain adjustments, including implementing group targeted programmes, having diverse teams and more accessible application processes, these would encourage more young people from diverse backgrounds to apply for apprenticeships and other programmes.

In fact, 65% said they would be more likely to apply to an apprenticeship or training programme with a business that had programmes “targeted specifically to people like them.” This number rises to 69% for those from a lower socio-economic background.

Seeing employees who are similar to them is also enticing for this cohort, with 62% of diverse young people saying they’d be more likely to apply to a company if they could see people employed from the same ethnicity or from the area they live. This rose to 70% for Black respondents.

Those from a lower socio-economic background also said they’d be more likely to apply to a company that offered online-only applications or paid travel expenses for in-person interviews or assessment days.

These insightful findings from BDO come as a separate study of 500 business leaders by the firm found that 23% of medium-sized businesses, almost a quarter, say COVID-19 has prevented them from prioritising their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) targets.

Should this continue, businesses stand to alienate job candidates from diverse backgrounds, including those who are younger and just entering the workplace. With this group looking for evidence of diversity and inclusion in the businesses they apply to, firms will likely miss out on this talent and the diversity of perspectives they can offer employers while also risking their company reputation.

Furthermore, businesses can and should harness remote technologies and related ways of working to recruit young job candidates from around the UK who may not even have to physically attend the workplace.

Sarah Hillary, Partner at BDO, said: “The fact that young people today still see their gender and ethnicity as potential barriers to entering the workplace is hugely worrying. It’s crucial that businesses wake up to the efforts needed to attract talented young people from every corner of the UK.

“Equality, diversity and inclusion efforts in business have improved, but it appears that the uncertain conditions brought on by COVID-19 have slowed progress in some areas. This research serves as a stark reminder that there is still much progress and opportunities to drive forward.

“We must address the long-standing barriers in the labour market so that everyone – irrespective of gender, race or background – can fulfil their potential. Encouraging people to join a company is just the start; shifting how the employer then helps them reach their potential is essential.”

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