Britain’s Muslim men and women are being held back in workplace by extensive Islamophobia, racism and discrimination according to a study conducted by Social Mobility Commission. The study highlighted that Muslim adults were less likely to be in full-time work.
The research for the government’s social mobility commission found that among Muslims there was a strong work ethic and high resilience resulting in impressive results in education, reported the Guardian.
But that was not reflected in the workplace. Only 6% of Muslims were embarking their careers in professional jobs, compared with 10% of the overall population in England and Wales. The study cited that 19.8% of Muslims aged 16 to 74 were in full-time employment, compared with 34.9% of the overall population.
The research also found that Muslim communities encouraged women to focus on marriage and motherhood rather than to seek employment. Overall, 18% of Muslim women aged 16-74 were documented as “looking after home and family”, in comparison to 6% of the overall female population.
There were a number of barriers to success that were cited by academics. These included Muslim students facing stereotype and teachers having low expectations from them; shortage of Muslim staff and other role models in the classroom and slim chances of receiving an interview call for those people with minority ethnic names.
Other barriers include young Muslims fear of becoming targets of bullying and harassment and find it difficult to work, “10 times as hard” as their white counterparts to get on. There is also a particular discrimination at workplace against Muslim women wearing hijabs.
Former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, who now heads the government sponsored Social Mobility Commission, said the research painted a disturbing picture. “The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. Unfortunately, for many young Muslims in Britain today this promise is being broken,” he said.
Calling for action by the government, communities, educators and employers, Milburn said: “Young Muslims themselves identify cultural barriers in their communities and discrimination in the education system and labour market as some of the principal obstacles that stand in their way. Young Muslim women face a specific challenge to maintain their identity while seeking to succeed in modern Britain.”
Prof Jacqueline Stevenson, of Sheffield Hallam University, which led the research, said: “Muslims are being excluded, discriminated against or failed at all stages of their transition from education to employment. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility”.
Stevenson also explained that the research has underlined the routine examples of Muslim men and women who have failed to find jobs that were appropriate based on their skills and qualifications.
The research was based on focus group discussions across Britain, through which Muslim youth shared and discussed their experiences. One female participant from Liverpool said her father had suggested “changing her name to help get a job”.
Another female participant in High Wycombe referred to hearing comments such as “he looked very Muslim” or “look at her, she’s got a scarf on”.
Farhana Ghaffar, a 25-year-old Muslim woman who was also part of the research study, said that she was “incredibly shocked” by the findings. “It ranged from assumptions that they were forced to wear the headscarf to jokes and casual comments in workplace about Muslims. Or every time there was a terror attack there was a feeling of a need to apologise and explain,” she said.
Ghaffar spoke of the difficulties Muslims face in workplace, including a culture of work colleagues drinking alcohol that Muslims were unable to participate in.
The research aimed to build on a previous report by the commission that found that children of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin outperformed other ethnic groups in education but were not seen flourishing in professional jobs. This study aimed to explain what was causing the trend through more in-depth focus groups and statistical analysis.
Another government-backed report, by Dame Louise Casey, previously raised the alarm over a lack of social integration in the UK.