By Amina Elmi
In 2019, Liverpool was named as one of the safest cities to live in the UK, along with being one of the best places to rent and work. This new analysis, which appeared in the Liverpool Echo, stated that job opportunities and earnings per person in Liverpool ranked within the top ten in the country. However, is this the case for all Liverpool residents?
For the Black population in Liverpool, which is one of the oldest in Europe, access to employment has always been veiled with discrimination.
In 1989, when Liverpool City Council produced the Gifford Report, one of the key factors outlined was that Liverpool performed worse than the rest of the country with respect to indicators of racial equality in the labour market. Now, over 30 years later, since that report was commissioned, employment in Liverpool for the Black community still faces a number of challenges, especially during these unprecedented times, due to the pandemic.
Looking at employment today in Liverpool through the eyes of a Black woman, the first factor that you notice is how the population has changed within the city since the Gifford report was commissioned in 1989. No longer does one Black community populate the city but the diversity that resides in Liverpool, enabled the city to win the Capital of culture in 2008. However, this diversity is not reflected in its employment practices and this can be seen when entering the heart of the city via its retail outlets. Liverpool’s city Centre is home to a variety of retails stores but very few contain Black staff working within their stores. As Boyle & Charles stated in 2012 Liverpool encompasses an invisibility of its black citizens especially in its workforce.
One key factor, which the Black community claims is the reason why they find accessing employment in Liverpool a struggle, is the institutional racism embedded in the city’s structures (Law, 1981). Unless this issue is tackled and addressed, Liverpool for the diverse Black community will continue to trail behind its northern counterpart like Manchester when it comes to key sectors like employment. A comparison can be seen by examining our neighbours in Manchester city council employment figures were 19.6% identify as BAME whereas in Liverpool less then 2% of the council’s workforce is BAME.
With the death of George Floyd and the BLM demonstrations across the World, entwined with the global pandemic, many have been asking themselves, how do we tackle racial inequality and institutional racism? For Liverpool, a city built on slavery, there can only be one way forward, and this will involve shining the spotlight on its city and seeing how change can prevail.
For employment, which provides the tools to live and strife within society, no longer can change be captioned by the introduction of a new reports commission by the Council but not enacted, but lasting revolution can only occur when significant recommendations in employment are embedded in all private and public companies. For Liverpool this would involve compulsory training for all staff in the area of equality and diversity.
Additionally, companies need to carry out equality and diversity audits, which will enable companies to measure accurately, staff diversity. Furthermore, unconscious bias training would enable the testing of implicit attitudes and encourage fairness within the workplace. Other recommendations would involve inspection of companies, an improvement of reporting capabilities and more investigation of companies to see whether employers are satisfying their equality duties or just playing lip service.
It’s not to say that the issue of diverse employment in Liverpool can be resolved within a short time period but if people truly believe that Black people should have a voice, then empowerment is the way forward and the greatest emancipation that can take place in Liverpool for the Black community is equal access to employment for all.