‘Inequality must be removed for Muslim women and white working-class boys alike’

‘Inequality must end for Muslim women and working class alike’ says Saira Khan (Image: Getty)

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What do white working-class British boys, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim women who live in this country have in common?

The answer is that when it comes to educational and vocational opportunities, both groups are at the bottom of the table.

And I fear that lockdown will again adversely and disproportionately affect these groups more than any other in society.

It is the duty of those who care about equal opportunities for all to take the lead in raising awareness of these disadvantaged groups.

There is inequality for Muslim women and working class boys (stock image)
(Image: flickr Editorial/Getty Images)

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Let’s look at Muslim women first.

A House of Commons Women and Equalities Commission report, Employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK, stated: “Muslim women are more likely to be economically inactive than women from other religious groups and that nearly half (44%) of economically inactive Muslim women are inactive because they are looking after the home.

"This compares with a national average of 16% of women who are inactive for this reason.”

The first assumption many may make is the stereotypical view that looking after the home is a “cultural expectation”.

This may be true for some women, but a lot of younger Muslim women aspire to gain skills and employment.

And being a minority Muslim woman (of Pakistani heritage) myself, I know just how difficult it can be.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi women live in the 10% of the most deprived local authority districts.

This has implications for access to resources, school attainment, progression to higher education and the availability of jobs.

Parallel to the socio-economic deprivation experienced by Muslim women is that of white working-class boys.

Paula Delaney, of the training Ambition Institute, asks: “Is Britain failing its white working-class boys?”

Growing up in a white working-class family and having worked in schools with a high proportion of children from this background, she writes: “I don’t like discussing pupils as data or percentages, but
to show you the disadvantage faced by pupils on Free School Meals (FSM), let’s put these numbers in real terms by looking at take-up of FSM in relation to 2019 GCSE results.

Working class boys out of school will cause significant problems (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/Cultura RF)

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"The average attainment 8 score for pupils not eligible for FSM was 45.6.%.

“Currently, around 10% of white pupils, 20% of black pupils and 45% of Bangladeshi pupils receive FSM. In total, there were 33,697 boys on FSM who sat their GCSEs in 2019.

"Of these, 1,093 Bangladeshi boys achieved an average score of 42.8%, 2,880 black boys achieved an average 34.5% and 22,720 white boys achieved an average 28.5%.”

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Just 13% of poor white boys go on to higher education – less than any black or Asian group.

Inequality, disadvantage and discrimination must be removed for all.

When striving for this, it’s important to acknowledge that the fates of white working-class boys and Muslim women are intertwined, not separate causes.

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