In It Together?
Perceptions on ethnicity, recession and austerity in three Glasgow communities
In February 2013 the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights commissioned a research team led by Dr Filip Sosenko (Heriot-Watt University) to conduct a ‘snapshot’ of the views and experiences of Glasgow residents from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds regarding the current period of recession and austerity. The project’s aim was to create a better understanding of the impact of recession and austerity on local minority ethnic communities, including issues around employment instability, labour market exclusion, changes in household income, cuts to services and welfare reform. The research is a small scale qualitative study which focused on the experiences of three groups from Scottish Pakistani/Asian, Chinese and Black African/Somali communities. It revealed wide-ranging issues affecting the lives and experiences of men and women.
Everyday life as a struggle
The vast majority of participants stated that their household budgets have been significantly affected by the rising costs of food, gas and electricity which - combined with the cost of rent and council tax – is presenting some individuals with challenges in meeting their housing costs. Very tight budgeting and ‘doing without’ were the main coping strategies, as was pooling resources within some extended families.
Impact of the recession on long-standing issues and the creation of new vulnerabilities
Long-standing issues raised by participants include persistently low incomes, labour market discrimination, inadequate housing, lack of adequate support with employability, lack of acceptance by some sections of Scottish society and various ‘ethnic penalties’ relating to the difficulty of securing employment that was commensurate with educational qualifications.
New areas of concern include the financial pressures faced by minority ethnic enterprises as a means of self-employment and employment to others within their communities, and the impact of reduced services on both women and children. Economic difficulties are also putting a strain on family relationships, in some instances resulting in household dissolution.
Negative impacts on physical and mental health of individuals (e.g. depression, isolation) were also reported.
Impact of current and forthcoming welfare reforms
At the time the field work was completed between February and March 2013, no-one knew exactly the extent to which forthcoming welfare changes were going to affect their income, but for those participants receiving benefits there was a consensus that it was already difficult to manage. The future imposition of a ‘bedroom tax’ and the move to online benefit applications were identified as areas of concern. Many participants spoke of the withdrawal or reduction in services such as childcare, after school activities, ESOL, support for job seekers and welfare rights advice including services tailored for minority ethnic groups. Higher fees being charged at crèche and sports facilities were also reported. These changes have the effect of re-enforcing the isolation of already marginalised groups. Some self-help activities were evident but self-organising against austerity or participating in local campaigns was less apparent. There were few signs of participants receiving financial support at the neighbourhood or community level, in part attributed to the stigma associated with poverty.
The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights offers sincere thanks to those involved in this project:
The research team and report co-authors for their work in research design, analysis and reporting:
Dr Filip Sosenko, School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Gina Netto, School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Akwugo Emejulu, Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh
Dr Leah Bassel, Department of Sociology, University of Leicester
Glasgow City Council, core funders of CRER through the Integrated Grants Fund, for their support of this research project Positive Action in Housing, The Well, Poverty Alliance and The Bridges Programmes for their assistance and expertise in scoping the research and identifying participants. All of the individuals and groups who generously gave their time and experience to participate in this research, without whom this report would not have been possible.
Download a pdf copy of the report via this link.
For further information on this project or the wider work of CRER, please contact:
Policy and Information Officer
Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
78 Carlton Place, Glasgow G5 9TH