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Government must tackle inequalities faced by Muslim people in employment

11 August 2016

Government must address the inequalities in employment faced by Muslim people in the UK, says a report by the Women and Equalities Committee. Evidence shows these will remain unless targeted support is introduced.

The report

The report highlights the economic disadvantages faced by Muslims, who experience the highest levels of unemployment out of all religious and ethnic groups, at 12.8% compared to 5.4% for the general population.

The report concludes that the Government's commitment to tackling disadvantage for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people must be coupled with a coherent cross-Government strategy focused on specific groups, including Muslims, and recommends that a plan should be developed by the end of this year.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair Maria Miller MP said:

"This report underlines the positive contributions of Muslims across the UK, and the urgent need to make equality of opportunity a reality for people of every faith and background."

The report makes nineteen recommendations to tackle disadvantage, arguing that the Government needs to directly address workplace discrimination, provide effective support to work, widen access to university, and properly support the aspirations of Muslim women.


Some of the most significant concerns which the Committee heard during the inquiry were Government initiatives on integration being linked to counter-extremism.

Committee Chair Maria Miller MP said:

"The challenges that the Government faces in tackling extremism cannot be under estimated but in the course of this inquiry we came across individual Muslims who were reluctant to speak to us for fear that our inquiry was part of the Prevent programme. The Prevent strategy was cited as a significant source of tension by a number of participants."

The report recommends that the Government must work to rebuild trust with Muslim communities by adopting an approach to integration which focuses on how it improves the life chances of disadvantaged communities rather than through the lens of counter extremism.

The Committee also found that a lack of comprehensive data is making it difficult to undertake a detailed analysis of problems, and recommends that more must be done to improve the quality of data so that employers, universities and the Government can all support Muslim people in achieving their potential.

Muslim women

The report concludes that inequality, discrimination and Islamophobia particularly affect the lives of Muslim women, when looking for work and then once in work.

Committee Chair Maria Miller MP said:

"We heard evidence that stereotypical views of Muslim women can act as a barrier to work. The data suggests that in communities these patterns are shifting across generations but we remain concerned that this shift is happening too slowly and that not all Muslim women are being treated equally."

The report calls on the Government to introduce a role models and mentoring programme aimed at Muslim women to increase equality and help them realise their potential.


Other recommendations made by the Committee include:

  • The 2020 challenge and McGregor Smith and Parker reviews must identify the distinct barriers that individuals from different groups face on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and migration history, and include specific policies to address the disadvantages faced by Muslim people. 
  • Parents and students should be given sufficient information to make fully informed choices about future career and education choices which take into account alternative choices, including apprenticeships.
  • Household conditionality under Universal Credit may affect up to 1 million families, including people who have not previously engaged with employment support services. There should be additional tailored support for those who are disproportionately affected, such as those with language barriers.
  • The Government should raise awareness amongst employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination. In particular, this applies to those employers who advertise vacancies through Jobcentre Plus.
  • More needs to be done to improve student prospects once at university and after graduation. Universities must introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, in recognition of the employment gaps that they are affected by following graduation. This should include role models and mentors as a means of support.
  • The Government needs to equip Jobcentre Plus staff with the tools and training to improve their understanding of employment issues faced by Muslim people. In areas where there are high levels of Muslim unemployment, the Department for Work and Pensions should introduce tailored support and local budgets to fund targeted support, and regularly publish outcomes of the schemes.
  • Name-blind recruitment should form part of a sustained initiative which profiles those employers which have successfully implemented the policy in order to incentivise others to follow suit. The Government should monitor uptake and legislate if progress is not made within this parliament.
  • Employers should pay particular attention to the impact of discrimination and the fear of discrimination in the workplace for Muslim women who wear cultural or religious dress. Discrimination on the ground of religion is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 and more must be done to challenge Islamophobia within the workplace as part of a wider push to challenge Islamophobia in society. The Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission must take action to make sure that employers are aware of their legal duties and employees are empowered to challenge discrimination.

Further information

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