Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Under new proposals to boost job opportunities for Asian and other immigrant groups, companies bidding for British Government contracts will be expected, in future, to show that they have enough employees from ethnic minorities. If the ethnic mix of their workforce is found wanting, their chances of winning a contract may be scuppered. The move, proposed by a Government-appointed task force, follows complaints that people from ethnic minorities face discrimination in finding jobs. Non-white immigrants are twice as likely to be unemployed as white Britons. Initially, the scheme would be tried out on an experimental basis, involving contracts for three Government agencies, and if successful, it would be extended to more departments. According to The Times, which reported the details of what it described as U.S.-style "programmes of affirmative action'', the proposed scheme is likely to be applied only to large businesses. "Companies with less than 100 employees may not be expected to reflect the ethnic make-up of their local communities,'' it said, pointing out that "external factors'' such as the location of a firm or the nature of its work would also be taken into account while determining the ethnic mix of its staff. One prominent member of the task force said the idea was to help employers make more "enlightened'' recruitment decisions. While the move was widely welcomed by immigrant groups, many employers were unhappy and said that it would make the bidding process less competitive. Some called it an attempt to introduce "racial quotas'' through the backdoor.