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Government action plan on women and work to look at ethnic minority issues

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Minister for Women and Communities Ruth Kelly today announced that the next phase of the Government's action plan in response to the Women and Work Commission will research economic exclusion and ethnic minority women as a key priority.

The next phase of the action plan will look at the particular issues facing ethnic minority women in the workplace. This follows on from a series of practical measures to help women in the workplace published last week by the Government. This was in response to the Women and Work Commission's forty recommendations to Government.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will use the knowledge and expertise gained during this first response to the Women and Work Commission to work with DWP to investigate the reasons behind the economic exclusion that exists for ethnic minority women. Ethnic minority communities overall have a lower employment rate than the rest of the population, and for Bangladeshi and Pakistani women it is particularly low - 24% and 24.2% respectively. The average employment rate for women of working age is 70%.

A Government report 'Engaging with Muslim Women' published today by DCLG shows many Muslim women feel that economic exclusion is a major issue for them. Many felt that they can't use the skills that they have or can't get advice to find challenging and fulfilling jobs. Many, particularly those who wear the hijab, also reported that they felt they are stereotyped by prospective employers.  

The report, written following an event held by the Prime Minister with Muslim women from across the country, also shows that Muslim women want to play a stronger and more active role in their mosques, communities and in society as a whole. Many felt that they are routinely excluded from Mosques and community leadership.  

In order to encourage more Muslim women and other under represented groups to consider roles such as being a councillor, Ruth Kelly also announced today that the Local Government White Paper to be published this Autumn will look at under representation at a local level. Women only make up 29% of councillors in England, compared to 52% of the adult population (aged 21 and over). Asian women make up less than 1% of local councillors in England, and there are no Muslim women who are MPs.  

Minister for Women and Communities Ruth Kelly said;

"Finding practical measures to raise employment levels for women from ethnic minority backgrounds into the workplace is a key priority.

 

  

"Many Muslim women have said that they want to play a more active role in the workplace and we already know that helping women harness their full potential is worth up to £23billion a year to the UK economy. There is an obvious case here for bridging that gap - this is not about preferential treatment but about tackling the barriers to Muslim women entering the labour market, where there are genuine shortages, and making the most of that pool of talent.  

"The Government is also committed to encouraging more women from Muslim women to take up roles in public life. However, we can only do this with the support of communities themselves and their own encouragement for women to have a stronger role."