THE BLOG

Young Muslims And The 'Broken Promise' Of Social Mobility

07/09/2017 09:10 BST | Updated 07/09/2017 09:10 BST
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Muslims experience the greatest economic disadvantages of any group in UK society. They are more likely than non-Muslims to experience neighbourhood deprivation, housing, educational and health disadvantage, and unemployment. Indeed only half as many Muslims are in full-time employment as non-Muslims.

At the same those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely than other ethnic, or non-Muslim, groups to succeed in education and go on to university, and they are not the only Muslims who do well at school.

So why does early educational success not translate into good labour market outcomes for young Muslims? And why do many young Muslims fail to experience the promise of social mobility held up by successive UK governments?

A new report, published today by the Social Mobility Commission with Sheffield Hallam University, highlights young Muslims' perceptions of growing up and seeking work in the UK. It examines the barriers they face in accessing the same sorts of employment as their non-Muslim peers.

The Muslim population is of course, highly diverse and there is no single Muslim 'experience', however the research found that the young Muslims faced similar challenges.

First, despite their relative educational successes, young Muslims believe that they could have done even better at school. Those who took part in focus groups said that teachers held stereotypical or overly low expectations of them, there were a lack of Muslim teachers or others who understand their aspirations, and a lack individual tailored support, guidance or encouragement which hinders young Muslims' ambitions.

They may also lack access to the sorts of networks, contacts and resources that can help them make the transition from school to employment, including through further or higher education. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds are doubly disadvantaged as they may also lack access to paid internships and/or work experience. Their transition into the labour market is also hampered by discrimination in the recruitment process.

Once in work, participants said that racism, discrimination and lack of cultural awareness in the workplace affects young Muslims' career development and progression. Misconceptions and stereotypical assumptions about Islam or assumptions made about gender expectations can also make it difficult for them to fully integrate and get on.

It is unsurprising in the light of these barriers that those who are successful say they had to work 'ten times harder' than non-Muslims. However, these successes may also come at a cost. Young Muslims speak of ongoing struggles to be recognised or promoted at work, the need to be constantly strategic in order to integrate with their peers, and a persistent obligation to defend their faith in the face of negative discourses in the media.

What is of more concern is that overall, despite their educational attainment, young Muslims are more likely to be unemployed, under-employed, in insecure employment and/or in receipt of low pay.

This waste of talent and ability is a disgrace. Our research found that young Muslims are often aspirational, ambitious, hardworking, young people who are often not being given the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

It is time for robust and immediate intervention from Government, schools, universities and employers to create an equal playing field where everyone has a fair chance to succeed in life - regardless of their background or faith.

Professor Jacqueline Stevenson is Head of Research, Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, and the author of the new Social Mobility Commission report 'Social mobility challenges faced by young Muslim', which can be read here