Ethnic disparities

Youth Futures Foundation was established in December 2019 with the overarching goal to improve employment outcomes for young people from marginalised backgrounds. Youth Futures fundamental aim is to narrow employment gaps by identifying what works and why, invest in evidence generation and innovation, and ignite a movement for change so that all young people have fair access to good quality jobs.

The data that emerged from the Race Disparity Audit in 2017 highlighted employment disparities faced by young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and the Covid-19 pandemic only compounded these barriers. Post-pandemic, the fall in employment was four times higher for young Black people and nearly three times higher for young Asian people. And these disparities persist as Youth Futures recently commissioned Savanta ComRes to survey over 2,200 young people from ethnic minority backgrounds and found that three in ten young ethnic minorities have experienced some form of workplace discrimination and two in five have experienced it when applying to a job (39%) and/or at a job interview (38%).

The challenge is systemic and vast and Youth Futures is committed to addressing ethnic disparities in employment outcomes and is determined to build the evidence base to highlight what works to support young people from ethnic minority backgrounds to access and remain in good quality jobs.


What we fund

As an established What Works Centre, we are interested in finding out what works to support young people into good jobs, and why. Our What Works Programme seeks to develop clear and robust evidence by evaluating promising or established services that support young people aged 14-24 from marginalised backgrounds to overcome multiple barriers into quality employment.

Since 2020, we have targeted £8.4m to 58 organisations for interventions that support ethnic minority young people to get good jobs and the evaluation of those programmes.

“So many different ethnic minority communities live in Newham. Like me, a lot of the young people we work with are the children of first– generation immigrants. We open up networks, joining the dots between primary school, secondary school, work readiness and local businesses.”

Sug Sahadevan, Chair of Youth Futures grantholder 15billionebp


Research projects

November 2022 – Reception in the House of Lords to launch new ethnic disparities research, hosted by Lord Woolley of Woodford. Find out more.

Triple stranded research project on ethnic disparities

Rapid evidence review:

Research undertaken by the Learning & Work Institute on behalf of Youth Futures revealed that young people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely than their white peers to be:

  • In low-paid or insecure employment
  • On a zero-hours contract
  • To face barriers including discrimination, a lack of access to opportunities for development and progression, and workplace culture and practice.

Read the report here.

Data analysis:

The Learning & Work Institute carried out a data analysis project for Youth Futures which found that there is limited data on ethnicity. The project highlighted that there are currently significant data gaps that need focus including employment outcomes, contract type, apprenticeships, pay, progression and discrimination in employment. Read the report here.

Rapid Youth Voice survey:

Savanta ComRes conducted a nationally representative independent online survey for Youth Futures of 2,700 18-25-year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds exploring their experiences, outlook and attitudes in the context of work. Amongst the findings, the research found that three in ten young ethnic minorities have experienced some form of workplace discrimination and that more than half (54%) of young Black people feel that employers underestimate their abilities because of their ethnic background. Read the survey here.


YEG Subgroup on ethnic disparities

The Youth Employment Group (YEG) launched the Ethnic Disparities Subgroup in July 2021 to bring experts across the sector together to address specific barriers facing marginalised young people in their education and labour market journeys. Youth Futures Foundation are a founding co-chair of the subgroup on ethnic disparities and lead its activities alongside the Council for Somali Organisations.

To find out more about the work of the UK’s largest coalition of youth employment experts, the YEG, and to learn more about the Ethnic Disparities Subgroup, click here.


Youth voice video

Isha, Ed and Roshan – members of the Ignite Subgroup of the Future Voices Group – led a project in the summer of 2022 to highlight the voices and perspectives of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds through a series of videos.

Crystal, Jordan and Yi Kang share their views and lived experiences of navigating employment in the videos below, explaining why it is important to support more young people from marginalised backgrounds to access employment.

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