On 13th July, Quilliam issued the following press release:

A new Quilliam report out today contains the largest poll to date of unemployed South Asian Muslim women (1). The report, Immigrant, Muslim, Female: Triple Paralysis?, shows that contrary to popular stereotypes, most (57%) of the UK’s unemployed Muslim female immigrants want to work but are held back by a lack of support from their families and insufficient practical support from the Government. In so doing, given the high rates of migration through marriage (2), Britain is under-utilizing a vast resource for boosting integration and national cohesion, and preventing extremism in the next generation.

The poll reveals that:

•    57% of the poll’s 634 respondents, a clear majority, say they want to work
•    24% say that they need more support from their family in order to work
•    30% (1-in-3 women) want to work so they can be more independent
•    64% said more practical support from the Government (particularly English-language lessons and access to childcare) would help them to gain employment
•    not one single respondent cited their religion as the reason for their not wanting to work

Case Study: Of particular concern is that the Government is cutting funding for beginners’ English language classes, which has seen colleges in East London discontinue classes and make teaching staff redundant, whilst waiting lists and a backlog of learners grow ever larger (3).

Muslim women also need more support from within Muslim communities. As evidenced in Quilliam’s Mosques Made in Britain report, women have limited access to the religious and lay leadership in mosques to shape debates about a woman’s role in family and community life (4). This has to change so that Muslim women can become powerful counter voices to the ‘us versus them’ narrative peddled by extremist elements within Muslim communities.

In a foreword to the report, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, says:

“Faith informs many cultural practices and traditions, but as this study shows, Islam neither puts a cap on these women’s aspirations nor hampers their efforts to learn and work. Moreover, I suspect that the real number of immigrant women who want to work is much higher, but they may feel the obstacles to employment are too great for them to be able to articulate a desire to work.”

Co-author of the report, Senior Research Fellow Anya Hart Dyke, says:

“The UK economy is in recession, but action needs to be taken today to support this immigrant community into work, thereby reducing dependency on the state, tackling ghettoization and addressing poverty and social exclusion. Given that immigration into the UK from the subcontinent through marriage is still common, this social group’s learning needs persist”.

Co-author of the report, Research Fellow Lucy James, says:

“This report shows that the idea that Muslim women don’t want to work is completely false. Muslim women do want to work but are being held back by a limited access to childcare, poor English-language skills and a lack of family support. Self-appointed ‘Muslim community leaders’ and the Government need to support Muslim women to fulfil their ambitions rather than unwittingly bolster the perception that Islam is a barrier to a woman’s career.”

Immigrant, Muslim, Female: Triple Paralysis? is available here.

Please find contact information below.

Notes on report

1. Of the 624 respondents, 84% were immigrants and 74% had been living in the UK for more than ten years. Our survey reached 265 Bangladeshi women and 369 Pakistani women. Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims are Britain’s most economically disadvantaged, with women faring the worst
(see Office for National Statistics for unemployment and economic inactivity rates).
2. A study undertaken (Dale, 2008) between 1998 and 2005  estimated that 50% of British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women married men born overseas, and 40% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi men married women from overseas.
3. A number of large scale protests took place last month at Tower Hamlets College (one of the poorest boroughs in the UK with an extremely high concentration of Muslims), because insufficient funding is forcing them to cut ESOL classes by 50%.
4. The Mosques report poll of 512 mosques revealed that only 54% had facilities for women. Mosques Made in Britain, February 2009.

Notes for editors

1. Quilliam is Britain’s first counter-extremism think tank.
2. For comment, analysis, interviews, and copies of the report, please call Quilliam’s media line on 0207 182 7286 or 07590 229 917 or email [email protected]
3. Interviews are available with both Quilliam and practitioners.