The Women and Equalities Select Committee is currently (March/April 2016) leading an enquiry into employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK (see link below). The enquiry is collecting information, data and evidence on possible British Muslim barriers to employment – understandable given the fact that British Muslims have some of the lowest employment rates and highest unemployment proportions, and are also underrepresented in managerial and professional positions. Here’s a link to the paper that Professor Anthony Heath and I submitted, covering an overview of the literature of Muslim employment penalties, and then discussing some potential drivers that could be causing the religious penalties.
The Committee are collecting evidence for experiences of discrimination at job application point and within the workplace, evidence that is very difficult to collect if one is looking beyond anecdotal evidence. Field experiments (correspondence testing) testing for religious discrimination is a valuable method of building an evidence base, but it is an expensive and labour intensive method to use. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) tested for racial discrimination at job application point (Wood et al, 2009) on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions; researchers submitted matched job applications from white and ethnic minority applicants in different areas of the British labour market and found that ethnic minority applicants had to make almost twice as many applications as a white British applicant in order to get a positive response from the employer. It would be really useful for a similar experiment to be conducted, testing not just for religious discrimination, but maybe for other forms of discrimination such as disability discrimination. Discrimination is not necessarily the only explanation for the penalties that are highlighted by several academic papers – it is likely to be a combination of factors that hinder and constrain, some of which are discussed in our paper.