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Religion and ethnicity at work: a study of British Muslim women’s labour market performance

Abstract

The literature on British Muslim women’s labour market experience suffers from four lacunae: the inadequate analysis of the multi-layered facets of their identities and the disadvantages they face; the narrow range of labour market outcomes studied (primarily labour market participation and unemployment); a lack of recent studies on the integration of Muslim women, educated in the UK and with English as their first language, into the labour market; and the absence of material on several sub-groups due to the lack of data, notably Arab, Christian Indian and White-British Muslim women. Using a large sample of data from the 2011 British census, the analyses presented here suggest that most non-White women face significant labour market penalties, with religion having a greater impact on labour market outcomes than race/ethnicity; Muslim women were the most disadvantaged, compared to other religious minorities, more so in relation to unemployment levels, part-time jobs and out of employment history, than in relation to occupational class and over-qualification. The results also suggest that the penalties facing Muslim women shaped by their ethnicity; not all Muslim women were similarly disadvantaged.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the final model, we have analysed all of the sample including those who were underqualified. Because we only interested in overqualification as a form of labour market penalties, we do not report the results for the underqualification. These results can be made available upon request.

  2. 2.

    Separate censuses were conducted in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and those parts of the UK are excluded from this study.

  3. 3.

    Whether one regression coefficient is significantly different from another can be evaluated using the 2SE test—for each coefficient calculate the range of values within ± 2SE of the estimated value, and inquire whether the two value-spans overlap. If they do not—as with the coefficients for Muslim Arab and Muslim Black African, on the one hand, and for Muslim White-British and Indian, on the other, then the differences are statistically significant. Muslim-Arabs and Black-Africans were significantly more likely to be unemployed than Muslim-Indians and White-British.

  4. 4.

    An additional finding is that some of the Muslim groups had significant positive coefficients for being in posts for which they were severely under-qualified—i.e. lacked the qualifications that were the norm for such jobs. This probably reflects that they were being employed within a minority ethnic enclave labour market, where social/family networks were more important than qualifications in the allocation of employment.

  5. 5.

    Many Black Africans are Muslims; most Black Caribbeans are Christians.

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Correspondence to Nabil Khattab.

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Miaari, S., Khattab, N. & Johnston, R. Religion and ethnicity at work: a study of British Muslim women’s labour market performance. Qual Quant 53, 19–47 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-018-0721-x

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Keywords

  • Muslim women
  • UK labour market
  • Ethnic penalty
  • Religious penalty
  • Employment prospects