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Finding a job is hard enough for African-Americans these days.

But black people in Britain suffer from even higher rates of unemployment, especially during the last three recessions, a new study reports.

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According to research presented to the British Sociological Association, joblessness among the black population in the UK was 18 percent last year, compared with 15 percent in the US.

During the two previous recessions, the disparity was greater. In the 1990s, 28 percent of black Brits were unemployed while only 13 percent of African-Americans. In the early 1980s, the difference was 24 percent to 17 percent.

Professor Yaojun Li from the University of Manchester explained in the UK’s Indepedent that the gap had a lot to do with British policy.

“[There is] a fairly strong indication that the flexible labour market politics adopted in Britain in the last few decades [had not protected] the minority ethnic groups against the repercussions of recessions.”

Li claims that the employment rate is so different because there are fewer federal labor policies that address social inequality and initiatives similar to American-style affirmative action established to help blacks in the UK. Those programs, he claimed, have helped some blacks in America.

The study also revealed that black women in Britain also had been hit harder by unemployment in the three recessions, given these numbers: 25 percent in the 1980s, 26 percent in the 1990s and 17 percent last year, compared with 20 percent, 12 percent and 13 percent in the US.

The study, which examined 2.7 million responses from three datasets in the UK and US, also reported that one in 12 black Britons are unemployed, compared with one in 16 in the US.

Li added:

“There is greater ethnic inequality in Britain’s…in the USA for both sexes…If you are black you are more likely to be without work in the UK.”

Tunde Banjoko, chief executive of the welfare-to-work charity Local Employment Access Projects, told the Guardian:

“I think that there has been a lack of awareness about the fact that so many black people are starting from such a low economic base that their life chances are so affected. In the US there is affirmative action and people do get in on those programmes. But once in they rise on their own merits.”

Still, no matter how you slice it, joblessness is extremely high in both communities. And whether one country has implemented social programs or not, the issue affects blacks on both sides of the Atlantic.


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Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog