When the dust settles: Race

Last updated: 30 March 2020

Existing social inequalities in the areas of poverty, health, housing and employment will mean that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionately impacted by the negative fall-out of this public health emergency.

Zubaida Haque, writing for the Runnymede Trust, has highlighted the differential impacts of COVID-19 on Black and ethnic minority groups in the UK. Haque draws attention to data that shows ethnic minority households are more likely to be overcrowded and multi-generational, compared to white British households. These differences are pertinent in regard to the spread of COVID-19 and highlight particular risks for BAME people who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions.

Several UK newspapers have highlighted racist incidents that targeted Chinese people. In some cases, Chinese people were targeted while wearing face masks – a type of racism described as ‘maskaphobia’ in The Guardian. This issue was further complicated for international students, who faced issues related to the end of in-person university teaching and anxiety about whether to remain on a deserted campus or attempt to return to their home country.


Other documented inequalities include:

  • The requirement to change recruitment practices in response to COVID-19 might re-introduce unconscious biases into the process, which could negatively impact BAME applicants.
  • Recent research from UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Carnegie UK Trust and Operation Black Vote found that BAME millennials were 47 % more likely to be on a zero-hours contract, compared to their white peers. This stark inequality highlights how economic challenges associated with COVID-19 will likely impact younger BAME people in a disproportionate way.