Headlines: June 1st, 2007



New research shows that people with long-term health problems face equally reduced chances of finding work whatever their ethnic background may be, but it found that people from ethnic minorities who are in bad health and who do not have a job are much less likely to receive sickness-related benefits than white counterparts.

The study, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will be launched later today at the Department of Health. It brings together analysis of nationally representative surveys and in-depth work in a deprived area of London to investigate the impact of long-term illness on financial hardship and employment. It examines the similarities and differences in the experiences of four groups of people, white British people, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Ghanaian.

The researchers conclude that adults of working age from the different ethnic groups have different rates of long-term ill health and that people with such health problems have poor chances of holding down a stable job. That, the study says, is part of the reason that some minority groups have low employment rates. Ill health affects men and women across the ethnic groups equally but, it finds, regardless of health status, there are considerable ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment. For example, the authors say, about 90 per cent of healthy white men are in work, falling to 50 per cent of those with ‘activity-limiting’ health conditions. Among Bangladeshi men, less than 70 per cent of those with no health problems are in work and that figure falls to just 30 per cent of those whose health limits their activities.

Looking at financial hardship, the report says it is common for all the families in the study, especially when they do not receive sickness related benefits. People from ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive sickness benefits than white people. Overall 19 per cent of people with a long-term condition receive Disability Living Allowance. But the figure is 16 per cent for Pakistanis and Black Africans and just 10 per cent among Bangladeshis.

Lucinda Platt from the Institute for Social and Economic Research, who is one of the report’s co-authors, said the research showed what it meant to live with long-term ill health and the extent to which employment was the best form of welfare for such people and their families.