Qualifications needed to help ethnic minority women into work

In recent years considerable emphasis has been placed on encouraging both parents in a ‘couple family’ into employment, and the needs and circumstances of lone earner ‘couple families’ have been relatively neglected.

Findings suggest that policy needs to consider ethnicity issues for this type of family, especially when they are low-income.

The child poverty strategy, ‘A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families’ Lives’, makes very little reference to differences between ethnic groups. However, there are substantial differences between the proportion of mothers working in different ethnic groups5.

A ‘couple family’ with one male earner is the family model for some groups, particularly where the mother has no or low qualifications, Pakistani and Bangladeshi families, and a small minority of other ethnic groups. Based on evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, researchers argue: “If we want to see greater employment participation from Pakistani or Bangladeshi mothers, one key is for these groups of women to gain higher qualifications.”

The policy implication is that targeted educational opportunities for mature women from ethnic minority groups are needed. But as an Equal Opportunities Commission’s investigation into Black and Asian women’s employment suggests, better educational qualifications are not the only lever. A range of initiatives could be introduced to assist ethnic minority women into the workplace, improve workplace culture and to progress in employment.

Mother’s employment can have negative impact on children