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Labour market experiences of young UK Bangladeshi men: Identity, inclusion and exclusion in inner-city London

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Detailed qualitative data are used to explore the processes perpetuating labour market disadvantage among young UK-Bangladeshi men living in central London. Strong forces of inclusion within the Bangladeshi community are found to interact with forces of exclusion from 'mainstream' society to constrain aspirations and limit opportunities. Though diverse forms of young Bangladeshi masculinity are found, a common pattern is heavy dependency on intra-ethnic networks. Negative experiences of and isolation from 'mainstream' society further reinforce reliance on 'our own people'. However, acute ambivalence towards belonging to a dense Bangladeshi community exists, exemplified in the widespread denigration of the restaurant trade. Many respondents express the desire to 'break out' and access new experiences. The findings support current policy emphasis on 'connecting people to work' but highlight the more fundamental need to connect people across ethnic boundaries. The paper urges researchers to 'unpack' ethnicity - to consider carefully what ethnic identity implies in terms of access to resources and opportunities for different individuals in different contexts - in order better to understand the diversity of labour market outcomes and the persistence of disadvantage.
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Keywords: Bangladeshi; employment; exclusion; identity; inclusion; men

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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