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East and Southeast Asians in the UK need to be more united to avoid losing out on job opportunities during the pandemic, says community leader
Na Qing
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East and Southeast Asians in the UK need to be more united to avoid losing out on job opportunities during the pandemic, says community leader

London’s Recovery Plan aims to focus on supporting communities especially those most impacted by the virus. Feature photo: Benjamin Davies/Unsplash

British East and Southeast Asians (ESEA) could miss out on support schemes in the city’s social and economic recovery from Covid-19 if not united, ESEA community leader suggests in a discussion on London’s Recovery Plan.

A discussion held by the community was hosted online by End the Virus of Racism – a frontline campaign group of migrants, students, community workers and artists that was formed in May amid increasing COVID-related racism and hate crimes towards East and Southeast Asians in the UK that have occurred since the start of the outbreak. 

Led by London’s Recovery Board which is co-chaired by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Chair of London Councils, Councillor Peter John, the plan sets out aims to reverse the pattern of rising unemployment and lost economic growth caused by the economic scarring of Covid-19 and to provide opportunities for young people.

Speaking to the Board on the first meeting held in June, Paul Scully MP, Minister for London said, “Despite the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda, London’s economy is the driver of much employment across the UK and that it was not the intention that the capital be overlooked.”

Lockdown restrictions had disproportionately impacted female and BAME-led businesses as well as those who were unable to trade online, said the Board.

Members of the Board also acknowledged that small business owners in particular had been keen to stress that they formed part of the community and shared the same concerns around inequalities as other Londoners.

“We do not want to return to a low-waged, low-skilled London.” -- Dr Mee Ling Ng OBE, independent governor on the boards of London South Bank University

Drawing membership from London Councils, business leaders, the community and voluntary sectors, academia and the health and police services, the board will also focus on supporting communities especially those most impacted by the virus and on narrowing social, economic and health inequalities. 

In evaluating this plan, Dr Mee Ling Ng OBE, independent governor on the boards of London South Bank University, South Bank Colleges and Transport for London, emphasised that people of ESEA communities should be targeted when it comes to new jobs created in the recovery process and efforts should be made to promote the employment rights of people from these backgrounds who are already at work.

The Honorary Fellow of Goldsmith’s College and Fellow of the 48 Group Club, which promotes UK – China business relationships, also says, “It is important to identify sectors that employ the most members of our community, at what levels, and to establish data collection of the employment profile of our communities.” She also suggests creating alliances such as with trade unions to monitor the disproportionate effects of redundancies on ESEA communities. “We do not want to return to a low-waged, low-skilled London,” says Dr Mee Ling.

“We need to be better-organised so that we won’t miss out on opportunities." -- Gill Tan, project coordinator at Newham Chinese Association

Gill Tan, project coordinator at Newham Chinese Association and a trained nurse who was born in Malaysia, suggests that the origins of people of ESEA communities should be looked at and taken into account when it comes to providing training as well as new job opportunities. “Most people [who] immigrated to the UK from Hong Kong are working in [the] catering industry whilst others of our communities who are from Malaysia, [the] Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and other South-eastern regions are more likely to work in nursing and social care sectors.”

It is agreed that ESEA communities are fragmented with members scattered across the country, therefore, it is crucial to unite the community and articulate narratives to address the issue of the underrepresentation of ESEA in workplace.

In response to that issue, Tan continued, “we need to be better-organised so that we won’t miss out on opportunities such as applying for and securing funding to deliver employment and transferable skills training to [the] people of our communities.” She also highlighted that the media plays a role in contributing to a more open and transparent job market and acknowledging the wider community of opportunities that are available to date, particularly to young and vulnerable people of these communities.

It is also suggested that careful consideration should be taken when it comes to the use of terminology to describe certain ethnic groups to allow a more transparent recruitment process, and terms such as “cultural fit” used to reject candidates from minority backgrounds need to be justified. 

 

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