U.K. MuslimsTackling the under-representation of British Muslims in top professions

Published 9 October 2015

A new report finds that British Muslims are least likely to hold professional or managerial jobs of any religious group in Britain — at only half the average level (16 to 30 percent) — and that more likely to be unemployed or living in poverty. The report calls for urgent action from government, employers, universities, and within the Muslim community to encourage economic participation and prevent conscious or unconscious discrimination.

A report from Demos, Britain’s leading cross-party think tank, highlights the chronic under-representation of British Muslims in top professions, and calls for urgent action to ensure more of the youngest generation reach the highest levels of U.K. society.

The report, Rising to the Top, reveals that British Muslims are less proportionately represented in the managerial and professional occupations than any other religious group, at only 16 percent, compared to an average of 30 percent. This figure has barely improved since 2001, increasing by only one percentage point, as most other religious groups have more significantly increased their likelihood of holding these top jobs.

Muslims in England and Wales are also disproportionately likely to be unemployed and economically inactive, and have the lowest female participation rate of all religious groups.

Rising to the Topargues that improving the labor market participation of young Muslims will be critical to supporting socio-economic integration and equality of opportunity in Britain.

Demos notes that the repot explains that the causes of this underrepresentation can be explained by demographic characteristics, and attitudinal and cultural drivers, including:
Language:Muslims in England and Wales are more likely to be recent migrants, often with poor English language skills and without access to established networks. They are also disproportionately likely to experience poverty.

  • Education:British Pakistani and Bangladeshi children are much less likely to achieve the very top grades at A-level that are required by leading universities.
  • Cultural attitudes:Cultural attitudes towards limiting the role of women in the labor market are prevalent in the British Muslim community. So too are many young people’s job and education opportunities limited by their parents’ aversion to them moving away from the local community.
  • Discrimination:Research reveals that some industries or organizations continue to discriminate against ethnic minorities in their recruitment processes. Opportunities for progression may also be further challenged by difficulties in immersing themselves in workplace social activities involving alcohol.
  • Workplace culture:Within organizations, the importance of alcohol to socializing and networking can also challenge Muslims’ ability to progress up the career ladder.

The report features extensive analysis of existing residential, education, labor force data and the Demos Integration Hub, supported by exclusive interviews conducted with schools, universities, local authorities and community organizations in the two East London boroughs with the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the United Kingdom: Newham and Tower Hamlets. Focus groups were also conducted with six formers, university students and young professionals from Muslim backgrounds.