MQT on 2014-02-26
Session date: 
February 26, 2014
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


As the cost of living increases at a faster rate than income, as data suggests, members of minority groups in society and those protected under the Equality Act 2010 are suffering disproportionately. What have you done, as Mayor, to rectify this?

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for Unemployment

Answer for Unemployment

Answered By: 
The Mayor

You ask a very good question, Jennette, about what is happening to unemployment in this city.  Obviously it has been a very tough time.  Things are starting to turn around, as Members will have seen.  We have one of the highest employment rates now and the highest rates for numbers of women in employment, which is very, very encouraging.  There are certain groups that we need to do more for, in particular youth unemployment.  That can particularly affect some minority communities, as I am sure, Jennette, you are aware.  That is why we are trying to tackle youth unemployment by creating 250,000 apprenticeships by 2015.  That programme is going well, although it is not easy.  We have done a lot of the low hanging fruit and we are now really ratcheting it up and I am confident we will get to 250,000.


There are plenty of other things you have to do to help people through these tough times.  I mentioned the Living Wage, which has greatly increased the travel concessions we have for young people for those in search of work.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Mr Mayor, thank you for that.  Of course I welcome the improvement on the unemployment figures regarding women, but the purpose of my question was to raise specifically with you the issue about black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, particularly young black men.  Let me just read you some statistics that came out of the Department for Work and Pensions’ report published in 2014.  It was called Labour Market Status of Ethnic Groups.  It showed, in that report, that the rate of unemployment in white people - if you like - as the base, aged 16 to 24 was 19%.  When you looked at the unemployment rate for Pakistani and Bangladeshi young people it was 46%.  When you looked at the unemployment rate for young black people - particularly men - it was 45%.  That is about a 20% difference between young white males and young black males.


What I am asking you to do is to consider a programme of specific employment programmes to support young people from BAME communities, particularly black males.  Can I just finish by saying to you, Mr Mayor?  In your 2020 Vision, where you set that vision of 250,000 apprentices by the academic year of 2016, I welcomed that as did everybody else.  Your words said that you wanted to make a significant dent in youth unemployment.  You will agree with me that the pace is not quick enough and if we are not careful that what will happen is that young Londoners, particularly young black Londoners, will be left out of your vision of London.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  The statistics that you give are broadly right and certainly accord with what I have been given.  The gap is actually narrowing now between unemployment rates amongst the various communities.  They are not by very much and so I would have to accept that there remains a problem.  The best way to tackle this, I still think, Jennette, is to recognise that all Londoners, from all communities, face young people who are not in education, employment or training.  There is educational failure across all communities and we need to tackle that.  That means looking at literacy, at numeracy in primary schools in driving up standards where we can, and obviously we are doing everything we can to do that.  The Schools Excellence Fund you know about, the Gold Club that we also have to encourage excellence in schools.


I would like to see in London not just an expansion of the apprenticeship scheme, which I think is central to trying to solve the problem that you are identifying, but also a much greater expansion of the university technical colleges (UTCs).  In many cases people with great natural gifts for science and for engineering are missing the opportunity to pursue those disciplines because of the type of education that they are getting.  The UTCs I have seen in Greenwich and the one that is being set up at City & Guilds is a fantastic new approach to education.


If I can just finish this, it is very important we do this.  This is basically what they did in Germany, if you remember, after the Second World War.  That was the right way forward.  We need many more of these university technical schools.  That is the best way forward for us.  There are obviously many other interventions you could pursue.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Mr Mayor, I would accept that and I would ask you to visit Hackney University Technical School.  There is excellent work going on there.  I am just saying, given these figures, we need a more specific programme.  Why are you so resistant to actually just considering calling your advisers together and saying, “What can we do for this particular ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, there is ‑‑


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  They cannot be left behind.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Of course not.  I have already had several meetings and, by the way, the problem is not confined just to BAME young people.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  That is where it is critical.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Particularly as you will know, Jennette, when the recession started to bite.  There was an acute problem amongst the female workforce from BAME groups in the middle years and you will know exactly what I am talking about.  There was an acute problem caused by the sudden laying-off of people in the public sector.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Specific action was taken.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We did take action there.  We did take action and we are continuing ‑‑


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Specific.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are taking specific action.  Believe me, these actions, our apprenticeship scheme and our interventions are of course aimed directly at young Londoners growing up in the centre of our city and around our city who are being asked to compete toe-to-toe with kids or young people coming in from the European Union accession countries who very often will get the jobs that I would like to see going to Londoners.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Mr Mayor, it is something we will return to but I would ask you to consider specific action.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  To be honest with you, Jennette, I do not think there is much difference between us on this.  I really do not.