Record number of job vacancies may not be good news for BAME workers and international talent

A race equality and a staffing organisation have raised concerns about the job vacancy boom

Record-breaking job vacancies sound good for the economy, but if BAME and international talent are left out due to a race employment gap and Brexit laws, will firms secure the best talent and prosper?

Organisations have responded to new ONS data which revealed that a record number of job vacancies were posted in July, and have raised concerns about the ongoing skills shortage, pressure on staffing companies and lack of employment for certain groups.

The report revealed an estimated 953,000 job vacancies from May to July 2021, which is a record high and grew by 290,000 compared with the previous quarter and 168,000 more than its pre-pandemic level.

However, the Race Equality Foundation, a non-profit organisation that promotes race equality in social support and public services, says the labour market isn’t improving for all job-seekers.

They believe that BAME workers are being left behind their white counterparts by an employment gap, suggesting that employers should work to ensure their recruitment drives, including their job postings and application processes are inclusive not just during the vacancy boom, but for the long-term.

Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation said: “While this report shows the UK labour market starting to rebound, we cannot brush aside the bad news. Reports that the unemployment rate for Black, Asian and ethnic minority workers has risen at three times the speed of the rate for white workers are worrying. This threatens to widen the employment gap between White British people and Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities, which has been closing over the last 20 years.

“The Race Equality Foundation has put forward recommendations through our Race Equity Collaboratives project, which explored the barriers behind racial inequalities in the labour market. We have suggested permanent furlough and other measures that could make a real difference to those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds who are being left behind. The Government must now look closely at proposals and act to stem this latest trend.”

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has also responded to the ONS findings and warns of the pressure on staffing companies as skills shortages remain.

They say sourcing the best talent could be a challenge for firms that haven’t experienced this level of competition before while Brexit’s immigration policy has been noted as a barrier to sourcing high-quality international talent.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo said: “These figures from the ONS echo the data we’re seeing at APSCo, with our latest trends report revealing that year-on-year figures for permanent and contract vacancies were up 43% and 53% respectively in July. However, while this growth in hiring is a positive reflection of the road to recovery for the UK, the continued dearth of talent is a concerning challenge that could derail growth plans for some businesses.

“For staffing companies, there’s mounting pressure to source top talent in a competitive market the likes of which many haven’t experienced before. Added to this demand, there are a number of macroeconomic elements that are impacting the ability to attract the resources needed. The existing Brexit immigration policy, for example, requires urgent review and APSCo continues its calls to the Government to provide an entry route into the UK that both allows and encourages high-value independent professionals to work in the country on a project basis.

“The planned return to in-person Right to Work checks also has the potential to enforce a return to location-based hiring, which will only exacerbate the skills shortage further. Ultimately, the recruitment profession is facing an uphill battle to support a rise in demand amidst a lack of talent, but there are ways to help mitigate at least some of these challenges. A regulatory environment that is fit for purpose in today’s modern world is a must if the UK is to remain on its positive economic trajectory.”
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