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New advisory body to tackle ethnic minority unemployment announced

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A new independent body has been launched today to help ethnic minorities find work.

The Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG), which is made up of twenty two representatives from across the ethnic community, has been set up as part of the Government's welfare reform agenda to boost employment opportunities for ethnic minorities.

Statistics reveal that, although the employment rate in Great Britain is the highest of all the G8 countries at 75 percent, ethnic minority employment is 15 per cent lower. The EMAG aims to narrow this gap and help get more people closer to the workplace.

Minister for Employment and Chair of the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force, Jim Murphy, said:

"Although employment amongst ethnic minorities is rising, the Government is determined to do more to tackle poverty and unemployment. This is being done through a number of successful initiatives which the EMAG will play an important role in contributing to.

"The new advisory group is a way of getting to the heart of the community and finding out the best ways to close the employment gap. To do this, we must work in partnership, focussing on what will work for local communities."

Iqbal Wahhab will be the first Chair of the EMAG. Mr Wahhab is also a member of the Government's Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force (EMETF) which will work closely with the EMAG to open up employment opportunities.

Mr Wahhab said:

"We will be lobbying for the Government to undertake a series of powerful and affirmative measures designed to target both public and private sector employment practices. Where we find these to be lacking in terms of ethnic minority representation, we will be calling for action to be taken against those organisations.

"Reducing unemployment levels among ethnic minorities is not just a question of fairness. These communities are more likely to live in poverty and as we have seen within Muslim areas, unemployment and deprivation can lead to anti-social behaviour.

"I believe that with a tough, concerted and committed approach, we can help close this gap."

In addition to offering guidance on existing policies, the EMAG will also provide advice on a series of measures being introduced as part of the welfare reform bill, including the new City Strategy. This will give local representatives of disadvantaged communities greater flexibility over funding designed to address worklessness.

Further steps to increase employment opportunity, such as the regeneration of the East London area in the run up to the 2012 Olympics, and looking to engage employers and increase diversity in the workplace, are all part of EMAG's remit.