Blogs for Culture Vultures

Expat life getting harder

Expat life getting harder


With fluctuating exchange rates and companies less willing to keep expats on their payroll, the economic landscape for expats is changing drastically.

Expatriates have always been known for their ability to adapt to new cultures and contexts but the current financial crisis may prove to be the biggest challenge yet for internationals.

The economic landscape across the globe is changing by the day and it is still unclear how that will affect the world and workplace – and the place of expats within it.

Two things are already clearly impacted, though: the costs borne by expatriates in many European cities and overseas assignments by multinational corporations.

A recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), for instance, showed that while weakening exchange rates have substantially lowered the relative cost of living in Western Europe for expatriates, it remains the most expensive area of the world to live in. Western Europe boasts seven of the top 10 most expensive cities across the globe and all but two of the Western European cities surveyed are in the top 50, according to the report.

However, those living in Western Europe can take heart in the fact that the relative cost of living in the region is dropping – due, in large part, to drastic declines in European currencies such as the sterling, the euro and the Norwegian krone.

Read more > Expatica
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Organisations Failing in Cross Cultural Up-Skilling



Leading research and workplace innovation company, Career Innovation (Ci) has today published the results of its latest study, Cross-Cultural Development Conversations.

Carried out across 45 leading companies worldwide, the new study has found that although organisations are aware of the need to skill up their leaders to manage the cross-cultural workforce, few have acted to make this a reality.

At a time when the pace and scale of globalisation has never been higher, competition for the best talent remains intense. The effectiveness of development conversations in organisations is known to play a significant role in engaging and retaining key talent. Factoring in the complexity of a diverse and dispersed workforce makes it even tougher to ensure that these conversations are at their most effective.

According to the 45 organisations interviewed (Sept-Nov 08), the business importance of working effectively across cultures is high and rising. Most are already operating complex organizations across multiple regions and almost all (91%) indicated they expect cultural diversity in their organisations to increase over the next 3-5 years, with nearly 50% expecting a “significant increase”.

The study revealed three top factors that impact cross-cultural development conversations:

The directness of communication style
Language differences – especially when people are not communicating in their first language
The need to establish high levels of trust across cultures, in order for development conversations to be effective

Differences between Asian and Western cultures were consistently reported as a particular challenge by respondents with 50% of organisations reporting this as an issue.

Companies identified many key employee development processes that are impacted by these cultural hurdles. For example, 60% of organisations said that coaching relationships can be much tougher to establish in some cultures than in others. Giving feedback can also present challenges, with one company finding that its Chinese employees quit after receiving challenging feedback.

“This issue has a big impact on global organisations”, says Ci’s founder Jonathan Winter. “Although they are increasingly aware of the need to encourage meaningful dialogue with employees about their careers and development, only a few have really taken on board the additional complexities overlaid by the cross-cultural dimension. Left unresolved the cross-cultural conversation gap hits the bottom line in a way companies can ill afford in today’s tough times.”

Organisations who are placing the strongest focus on building their employees’ cross-cultural competence report significant benefits including improved attraction and retention rates.

Following on from this study and Ci’s previous Conversation Gap research, Ci will be developing its existing career tools and approaches to encourage more leaders to develop cross-cultural thinking as part of their everyday style. Winter offers an example of how this will be incorporated, “Our Engaging Conversations multi-rater tool is already helping mangers around the world improve their staff dialogue skills and habits. We’re going to take that to the next stage and incorporate the cross-cultural dimension”.

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Documentary Series on ‘Reverse Migration’

Documentary Series on ‘Reverse Migration’


Does the country of your parents’ or grandparents’ birth fascinate you? Would you consider moving there for a better standard of living?

Britain may once have seemed like the land of opportunity, but now, with the downturn in the economy, thousands of British born people are leaving for the promise of a better life where their families came from originally – in countries like India, Africa, China, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

In Bangalore alone, the southern Indian IT city, more than 40,000 Indian IT professionals are estimated to have arrived back from the US and UK to take up work. There are exciting career and business opportunities for people with western education and experience, and there is a growing trend of ‘Reverse Migration’ to many countries from the UK.

Ricochet, the makers of Channel 4's 'No Going Back' and “Super Nanny” are producing a new TV series that follows this trend for a new documentary series.

Four 2nd or 3rd generation British families will be given the opportunity to 'road test' a new life in the country of their parents or grandparents for several months, to find out about jobs, schools and housing. They might like it so much; they decide they want to stay.

If you and your family are thinking about making such a move, or have always wanted to find out what life would be like where your parents or grandparents come from; then please contact us on the following:

Call: 01273 224 816
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: www.Ricochet.co.uk

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Intercultural Teams



The complex work of modern knowledge intensive industries requires input from a variety of professions and skill sets, more than a lone worker can be expected to master. And since business is rapidly globalizing, managers can expect to work with teams whose members represent multiple cultural approaches to interpersonal relationships, work, and structures.

In such a situation, opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication abound, but the opportunity for magnifying the productivity of the group into deeper and more robust results is also great. What resources can a manager bring to the orchestrating of work in a multicultural team?


Approaches to Team and Group Work in Different Cultures

North American and Western Europe exemplify cultures in which individuals expect to compete, putting forth their own ideas forcefully in the expectation that others can be persuaded to go along with the one whose idea is most powerfully expressed. Such an approach to work in a group can be expected to generate a great deal of “noise”: conflict, debate and friction. Successful groups working within this paradigm will channel their competition into improving the work itself, but the obvious danger is that the conflict can become interpersonal, with emotional overtones interfering with the task at hand.

Read more > Teams

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Fire Service recruitment campaign aims to ethnic diversity

Fire Service recruitment campaign aims to ethnic diversity



The government has launched a recruitment campaign targeting ethnic minorities and women to help the Fire Service reach its new equality targets.

Earlier this month the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) agreed to targets demanding that by 2013, 15% of all recruits to the operational sector are women - an increase from the 2008 recruitment figure of 9.2% - and that the proportion of ethnic minority staff is representative of the local community.

A report by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) had revealed that just 5% of FRS employees were from an ethnic minority background, while just 3.3% of operational staff were female.

The new campaign is designed to change attitudes and perceptions towards a career with the force - focusing specifically on women and ethnic minority groups - rather than the development of a national recruitment campaign.

The exact nature of the campaign is still under discussion but it will run across a range of media platforms, including advertising, online and events.

Read more > Fire Service
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Nursing and Intercultural Dynamics

Nursing and Intercultural Dynamics



Transcultural nursing with established clinical approached to clients with varying cultures are relatively new. According to Madeleine Leininger (1987) founder of the filed of transcultural nursing in the mid 1960s. The education of nursing students in this field is only now beginning to yield  significant results.

Today  nurses with a deeper appreciation of human life and values are developing cultural sensitivity for appropriate individualized clinical approaches.

Religious and Cultural knowledge is an important ingredient in health care. If the client do not respond as nurse expects the nurse may interpret it as unconcern or resistance the nurse then can be anxious and frustrated in order to incorporate cultural knowledge in care cultural knowledge in care.

It is important to understand some definition and cultural components that are important in health care.

For a nurse to successfully provide care for a client of a different cultural or ethnic to background, effective intercultural communication must take place. Intercultural communication occurs when each person attempts to understand the other’s point of   view from his or her own cultural frame of reference. Effective intercultural communication is facilitated by the nurse identification of areas of commonalities. After reaching a cultural. understanding, the nurse must consider cultural factor throughout the nursing process.

Major Nursing organizations have emphasized in the last decade the importance of considering culture factors when delivering nursing care.

According to the American Nurses’ s Association (1976)”Consideration of individual value systems and lifestyles should be included in the planning and health care for each client Nursing curriculum recognize the contribution nursing to the health care needs of a diverse and multi cultural society life-style may ret1ect cultural heritage.

Culture-Broadly defines set of values, beliefs and traditions, that are held by a specific group of people and handed down from generation to generation. Culture is also beliefs, habits, likes, dislikes, customs and rituals learn from one’s family. (Specter 1991)

Culture is the learned, shared and transmitted values, beliefs, norms and life way practices of a particular group that guide thinking, decisions, and actions in patterned ways.

Religion:  Is a set of belief in a divine or super human power (or powers) to be obeyed and worshipped as the creator and ruler of the universe? Ethical values and religion system of beliefs and practices, difference within the culture and across culture are found

Ethnic: refers to a group of people who share a common and distinctive culture and who are members of a specific group.

Culture-universals: commonalities of values, norms of behavior, and life patterns that are similar among different cultures.

Culture-specifies ; values, beliefs, and patterns of behavior that tend to be unique to a designate culture.

Cultural shock:-the state of being disoriented or unable to respond to a different cultural environment because of its sudden strangeness, unfamiliarity, and incompatibility to the stranger's perceptions and expectations at is differentiated from others by symbolic markers (cultures, biology, territory, religion).

Read more > Nursing
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Expatriate Bankers Are Cut Loose

Expatriate Bankers Are Cut Loose



Losing your job anywhere is disorienting, but imagine being laid off when you work in a foreign country. Not only is your source of income, and perhaps a good part of your identity, suddenly yanked away, but often you lose your right to remain in the country.

Sandra Johnson, left, president of the Kensington and Chelsea Women’s Club in London, said membership was dropping. International recruiters like Sonamara Jeffreys in London, right, say that laid-off Americans with 30 days to leave Britain are looking for jobs back home.

Add to that urgent disruption the calamity of a collapsing industry and you have the life more or less of thousands of American expatriates in banking and finance.

The archetype of the young international banker cut one of the most dashing figures of the age of globalization. Well-educated and well-connected, able to take their pick of jobs, they skipped across employers like they did countries for weekend getaways.

As recently as last fall, financial professionals who lost their jobs as Wall Street bled could hope for new positions overseas. But layoffs have spread quickly from New York to Europe and now to the Mideast and Asia, leaving a growing number of jobless expats, as they are known, with few places to turn and either stranded or forced to return home.

A rhyming refrain among laid-off bankers a few months ago — “Try Dubai, Mumbai and Shanghai” — now seems hopelessly dated. Financial markets in all three cities have crashed.

Read more > Bankers
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Working abroad improves your skills

Working abroad improves your skills



In his  14-year career as an industrial and electrical engineer, Carlos Founaud has worked or done business in Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Germany, Britain, Australia, and Italy before returning to his native Spain.

“I called myself a multicultural interface,” he laughs. “If something broke down, the Spanish way was to focus on the problem—let’s have a look, make a decision, and do it. The Austrian way was to find out who’s guilty. The British way was to open the manuals and find the different procedures for fixing it—and afterward go to the pub.”

Founaud has found that this multicultural approach to problem solving, while maddening at times, has also made him better at his job. Now general managing director of iA Soft Aragón, a Saragossa firm that develops public administration software, he seeks out foreign programmers specifically to challenge the procedural mind-set on his home turf.

Foreign postings often offer more autonomy and responsibility, a faster pace, higher pay, and tax breaks, as well as the adventure of foreign lands and languages. The posts can also improve your skills.

Read more > Skills
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Technology and Global Mobility

Technology and Global Mobility
Geeta Gwalani explores how the optimum use of technology can be achieved in the context of global mobility programs of organisations.

The use of information technology within human resource (HR) management has increased greatly during recent years, with most organisations now using technology to some extent in their management of HR.

Some believe that HR practitioners have become more focused on adding strategic value within an organisation and becoming a business partner to line managers. A number of authors have suggested that technology may be used within HR to facilitate this shift in the role of the HR function, including Edward Lawler and Susan Mohrman in their 2003 Human Resource Planning article, 'HR as a Strategic Partner: What Does it Take to Make it Happen,' and Samir Shrivastava and James Shaw in their 2003 Human Resource Management article, 'Liberating HR through Technology.' However, HR functions also have been under pressure to reduce costs and make efficiency savings, sometimes achieved by outsourcing parts of the function, but often through streamlining the transactional aspects of the work by means of call centres, self-service, and a greater use of new technology.

The use of technology within HR has increased rapidly during recent years, with 77 percent of organisations using some form of HRIS in 2005, according to a paper published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Read more > Mobility
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Ethnic Minorties to be protected during recession

Ethnic Minorties to be protected during recession



People from ethnic minority groups could receive additional financial support as a result of government fears they will be hardest hit during the recession.

At Labour's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic annual general meeting in Leicester, work and pensions secretary James Purnell announced an initiative to ensure that no ethnic minority worker would be "left behind".

Purnell warned that employment levels among people from ethnic minorities fell by 10% in the last recession, and said it was important to ensure such mistakes were not repeated.

"In the past too many were left behind in bad times. Ethnic minority workers suffered most in the Tory recessions," he said.

Mr Purnell said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had agreed to work with the government to assess whether any groups were suffering disproportionately in the recession, and to advise ministers about corrective measures.

Read more > HR News
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The Intercultural Library

The Intercultural Library



Immigrants will now be able to access learning aids in their own language, information about life in their new homeland or literature in their mother tongue in German libraries, thanks to a new intercultural web portal for library users and staff, launched by the German Library Association (Deutscher Bibliotheksverband, dbv).

Via “springboards” for more than 20 languages, the Intercultural Library provides information on stocks of foreign-language books in public libraries in Germany and also links to texts for library work, multilingual glossaries and online dictionaries, multilanguage online information services and other information portals. The library-work-related level comprises texts and links to integration strategies, professional literature, professional forums, organisations and associations, and also practical examples from other libraries at home and abroad. Within this context, special emphasis is laid on topics such as “Life in Germany”, “Promoting reading and writing” and “Health”, experience having shown that demand for information and source texts on these topics is especially high.

Read more > Goethe Institut

What Kwintessential says:

This is an exciting and interesting initiative by the Goethe Institut which addresses the issues of immigration, language, cultural understanding and the integration of foreigners. Such projects should be seen as the way forward for other countries seeking to implement ways of bringing foreigners into the country and having them understand their new neighbours, colleagues and countrymen.
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The Intercultural Library

The Intercultural Library



Immigrants will now be able to access learning aids in their own language, information about life in their new homeland or literature in their mother tongue in German libraries, thanks to a new intercultural web portal for library users and staff, launched by the German Library Association (Deutscher Bibliotheksverband, dbv).

Via “springboards” for more than 20 languages, the Intercultural Library provides information on stocks of foreign-language books in public libraries in Germany and also links to texts for library work, multilingual glossaries and online dictionaries, multilanguage online information services and other information portals. The library-work-related level comprises texts and links to integration strategies, professional literature, professional forums, organisations and associations, and also practical examples from other libraries at home and abroad. Within this context, special emphasis is laid on topics such as “Life in Germany”, “Promoting reading and writing” and “Health”, experience having shown that demand for information and source texts on these topics is especially high.

Read more > Goethe Institut

What Kwintessential says:

This is an exciting and interesting initiative by the Goethe Institut which addresses the issues of immigration, language, cultural understanding and the integration of foreigners. Such projects should be seen as the way forward for other countries seeking to implement ways of bringing foreigners into the country and having them understand their new neighbours, colleagues and countrymen.
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CILT research into Intercultural Skills

CILT research into Intercultural Skills



CILT is now entering the second phase of its research into an occupational and functional map for languages and intercultural skills and is currently consulting on the cross-sector applications of languages and intercultural skills in the workplace.

You can contribute to their research

If you are a employer involved in the management or recruitment of any roles using language or intercultural skills or if you are an employee using your language or intercultural skills in your job, they would like to hear from you. They’ve prepared a short questionnaire that should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete.

Your views are essential to this project. Please download and complete our questionnaire and return it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 27th February. If you have any questions or comments about the project, you can email those to the same address.
Alternatively, their research team are conducting one-to-one telephone interviews with employers, employees and key stakeholders. If you have a lot of knowledge with regard to a particular role, or roles, and its (their) use of language or intercultural skills, it would be very helpful to talk to you. Please contact CILT directly to discuss your particular perspective.
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HR challenge for Gulf States

HR challenge for Gulf States



Gulf oil producers have made substantial progress in economic development because of their massive crude resources but they will always remain reliant on foreign labour, a United Nations official said yesterday.

Adel Abdul Lateef, Director of Regional Programmes at the Regional UN Development Programme Office, said the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries still face the challenge of human resources development despite their remarkable economic achievements over the last 50 years.

One of the problems he cited was that GCC nationals still account for a low percentage of the workforce in most member states as they prefer the public sector in the absence of attractive incentives in the private sector.

"The GCC economies will always surpass the production capacity of the native population and this will make these economies permanently reliant on expatriate labour from all sides," he told a human resources conference in Abu Dhabi.

"The GCC's long-term strategies must take into account the rapid demographic consequences resulting from this steady development whether in terms of rights and duties for expatriates or the number of nationals and their contribution to all economic aspects and values."

Abdul Lateef said the large expatriate presence in the GCC has become a permanent phenomenon, which has "not only offset a sharp labour shortage during the oil boom but also largely contributed to the expansion of the GCC market in terms of commodities and services".

"There is no doubt this large foreign presence has become a controversial topic of discussion and has raised economic, political, cultural and strategic issues over the past period due to a steady increase in this presence."

Read more > Foreign Labour
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India turns away from expats to home-grown talent

India turns away from expats to home-grown talent



Expatriate executives, who were the flavour of the season when India was riding high on a 9%-plus growth rate, are now becoming the first ones to get the pink slip as Indian industry, hit by the slowdown, starts looking within the country for inexpensive hires.

“Many of the expatriate executives, who have been asked to leave, are subject experts. Their value diminishes in a downturn as companies are no more expanding, and thus don’t need people to guide in a new venture,” says K Sudarshan, MD of executive search firm EMA Partners’ India unit.

Since October 2008, there has been a spate of replacements of expat executives with Indian professionals at the senior level.

Read more > India
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Cultural competence key to future work

Cultural competence key to future work



With all the talk of layoffs and company closings, it’s easy to forget that most work-force-ready Americans are not unemployed, however tenuous their jobs may seem. After all, the corollary to a 7 percent or 8 percent unemployment rate would have to be an employment rate in the 90s. That’s a lot of people who would like to keep their jobs, and Mary Beth Lamb, a Minneapolis-based consultant, believes she knows how they can do it. In two words: cultural competence.

Or global competence, if you prefer. Lamb, who has worked on five continents, says the key to future employment lies in developing a global mind-set. “We need to recognize that people from different cultures think differently,” she said. “There is a diversity of thought, language, style, behavior. Awareness is really the first step, and then acceptance and skill building are next” in the process of building such a mind-set.

Why should anyone go to this trouble when the United States has been the dominant force in business worldwide? The obvious answer is that dominance is not guaranteed; some would say that it is already waning. On the other hand, even a scenario where the United States maintains its leadership places us squarely in the world marketplace, where the need for cultural competence seems only to grow.

Read more > AMY LINDGREN

What is Cultural Competence?

As a company involved in cultural awareness training, we are often asked for a definition of intercultural competence. In short, there is no one answer that can be given to this question. Intercultural competence is a term that can be applied by many different people for many different reasons. As a result the definitions change depending on the angle at which people are looking at it from.

In essence intercultural competence can be summed up as the ability to work well across cultures. Yet, many will not agree with such a simple definition. As a way of presenting all the different opinions on the matter, we scoured some sources to see how others define intercultural competence. Here are the results:

>> "..the overall capability of an individual to manage key challenging features of intercultural communication: namely, cultural differences and unfamiliarity, inter-group dynamics, and the tensions and conflicts that can accompany this process."

by staff at Universität des Saarlandes

>> Intercultural competence ".means that a student understands a variety of significant cultural experiences and/or achievements of individuals who are identified by ethnicity, race, religion, gender, physical/mental disability, or sexual orientation; the cultural history of various social groups within a society; the interrelations between dominant and non-dominant cultures, either in the United States or elsewhere, and the dynamics of difference."

By Penn State

>> "A simple definition, however, might be: the abilities to perform effectively and appropriately with members of another language-culture background on their terms."

By Alvino E. Fantini, Ph.D., School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont

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Christian bus driver refuses to drive buses with atheist ad

Christian bus driver refuses to drive buses with atheist ad



A bus company is attempting to accommodate the religious views of an employee who refused to drive vehicles displaying atheist advertising.

A Christian bus driver Ron Heather, from Southampton, Hampshire, has refused to drive a bus with an atheist slogan proclaiming "There's probably no God". He responded with "shock" and "horror" at the message and walked out of his shift on Saturday in protest.

His employer, First Bus, said it would do everything in its power to ensure Heather does not have to drive the buses.

When he returned to work last Monday, he was called into a meeting with managers and agreed to go back to work with the promise he would only have to drive the buses if there were no others available.

Audrey Williams, head of discrimination law at Eversheds, said: "The employer has been pragmatic and accommodating in its approach."

Read more > Bus Driver

What we say:

Religion in the workplace is of great importance today, especially in the UK with the passing of the The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. This story portrays nicely a case where the employer used common sense to bring about a positive outcome for the employee.

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Execs willing to work abroad in 2009

The majority of executives around the world indicated that they are willing to relocate internationally for job opportunities in today's tumultuous economy, according to Korn/Ferry's latest Executive Quiz. The Executive Quiz released by The Korn/Ferry Institute focused on perceptions about the labor market. The online survey was conducted in September and October, just as volatility in the financial markets elevated concerns surrounding unemployment around the world.


According to the survey findings, 85 percent of respondents said that they expect more job losses in the global labor market in 2009, and 78 percent expected unemployment to rise in Q4 2008.  Given the perceived volatility in the labor market, executives report an extreme willingness to chase job opportunities around the world; a surprising 84 percent of executives say they are willing to consider relocating, with 55 percent willing to move internationally for their next position.

"This is a very dynamic time in the global labor market, and while the overall demand for talent will certainly rise over time, job creation may be in different locations than today's talent pools are clustered,” said Sergio Averbach, President of Korn/Ferry International, South America.  In countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China the world's "fastest growing economies" it's not uncommon to see unemployment temporarily increase as labor supply and demand find a new equilibrium in such geographies and different industries."

The results showed a contradiction when respondents were asked about their own company's hiring plans. Nearly half “ 47 percent“ said their companies were hiring even in the current economic environment. Another 27 percent said their companies were in a hiring freeze. Only 26 percent stated that their company was currently downsizing.

Read more > Survey
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Calls for radical action to boost minority managers

Calls for radical action to boost minority managers



Urgent action is required to boost the number of ethnic minority managers in UK workplaces, according to an equality lobbying group.

A study by Race for Opportunity - part of the Business in the Community campaign group of employers - analysed office labour market statistics between 2000 and 2007, and found ethnic minorities have not been gaining the share of jobs that their proportion in the wider UK population would justify. The gap between the overall ethnic minority population and those in managerial positions is even greater, with the report warning that, based on current trends, ethnic minority managers will never be in line with their representation in the wider population.

The Race to the Top report showed that more than one in 10 of the UK population comes from an ethnic minority group, yet just one in 15, or 6.8%, were in a management position at the end of 2007.

Read more >> Management
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Ethnic minorities employment prospects fail to improve

Ethnic minorities employment prospects fail to improve



The employment prospects of some of the UK's ethnic minorities have failed to improve and may well have declined markedly since the 1970s, according to research.

A study by research professors at both Manchester and Oxford universities found that minority ethnic groups had a much harder chance of finding work as their white counterparts, and that employment for ethnics had got worse since the 1970s. The news comes as the number of people out of work grew to 1.86 million in the three months to October – up 137,000 from the three months to July.

Anthony Heath, a professor at the University of Oxford, called on the government to do more to improve employment for ethnic minorities: “Previous government attempts to use legislation have failed to narrow the gap, although the proposals in the Queen's Speech this month may offer some hope of progress.”

Read more >> Employment
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