Seminar to discuss Scottish study on ethnicity links to poverty

White Scottish men in the Highlands and Fife are concerned about the lack of skilled manual jobs, while Chinese and East European incomers say prejudice is an additional factor stopping them from getting work.

These are some of the findings in a key report on the links between poverty and ethnicity which will be discussed at a seminar at the University of the Highlands and Islands executive office in Inverness on Wednesday, 31 August. A similar session will be held simultaneously at the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline, Fife.

The events, involving representatives from the public and third sector, will also look at how research findings may be taken forward.

The study also found that participants considered language provision in the Highlands to be insufficient and inflexible. While lack of affordable childcare was an issue for all single parent mothers with school-age children, it was most acute for Chinese women with little English and lacking family or social support structures locally.

Researchers were tasked by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to examine the reasons for differences in low income and poverty among people from various ethnic backgrounds in the Highlands and Fife. Although comparable in population size, the two areas exemplify Scotland’s diverse geographies.

The charity Joseph Rowntree Foundation funds a large, UK-wide research and development programme, aiming to understand the root causes of social problems, identify ways of overcoming them, and show how social needs can be met in practice.

The study was carried out by Dr Philomena de Lima and Tim Braunholtz-Speight from the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Rowena Arshad and Alan Bell from the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh.

They interviewed 32 people from four ethnic backgrounds, white Scottish, East European, Gypsy/Travellers and Chinese, on their experiences of poverty, their coping strategies and views on potential solutions, and consulted stakeholders from the public and voluntary sectors.

The research team concluded that more research was needed on the relationships between poverty and ethnicity, paying particular attention to the intersecting factors of diverse geographies, economies and public policies.

Dr de Lima, director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, said: “All of our participants associated poverty with limited choice and opportunities in accessing food, warmth and accommodation. While recognising poverty’s complex causes, they emphasised economic factors such as poor access to well-paid, secure employment, because of economic restructuring and labour market constraints.

“Factors like gender, disability, age, legal status, migration history and marital break-ups, combined with economic issues, increased vulnerability to poverty and made it difficult for some groups and individuals to find routes out of poverty.”

Dr Rowena Arshad, director of the Centre for Education for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh, said the study highlighted that ethnicity-specific factors, including loss of traditional livelihoods, pressures to lead settled lives, prejudice and low literacy levels, increased the poverty risks of certain groups, such as gypsy/travellers.

In both regions, diminishing opportunities in accessing well-paid skilled occupations affected white Scottish men. Language barriers, lack of recognition of overseas qualifications, prejudice, discrimination and legal status made it difficult for East Europeans and Chinese to access appropriate employment or training and development.”


Media contact
Glenda Johnson
University of the Highlands and Islands media relations officer
01463 279222