Finding Work

Members of the Asian community in Uganda were engaged in a number of different occupations and businesses. Asian businessmen were very influential in the Ugandan economy, running businesses as large as sugar processing factories and as small as shops and cafes. Asians also held technical and professional posts such as engineers in large factories like Ford, or in government or educational premises. They did not always find it easy to find equivalent jobs in the United Kingdom.

British United Shoe Machinery Company, 1965

British United Shoe Machinery Company, 1965

Workers at the Henderson shoe factory in Leicester, 1980

Workers at the Henderson shoe factory in Leicester, 1980

Mr Singh had been an electrical engineer at Makerere University but initially found in England that employers were reluctant to employ him because of his race and religion. One manager told him:

“My difficulty is that my people may not like to work under the Asian and I do not like to have the union trouble in my firm”

In comparison to some areas of the United Kingdom, Leicester had a relatively healthy economy with a range of major industries. The most popular factories to work at were British United Shoe Machinery, Imperial Typewriters, GE Lighting, and Walkers Crisps. These all employed large numbers of workers and often offered extra hours and bonuses.

Leicester had a long history of female employment in the hosiery and footwear factories. This was not the normal practice in Uganda where women usually stayed at home, but many Asian women now worked in factories for the first time, to add to the family income.

Some people saved their money until they could afford to start their own businesses again.

Having left almost everything behind in Uganda it was vital to be able to get low interest loans or credit to start up in business. Those who had previous experience in Uganda may have found it easier to set up in business by using their knowledge and contacts.

Wolsey advert, many Ugandan Asian migrants worked at the Wolsey factory in Belgrave

Wolsey advert, many Ugandan Asian migrants worked at the Wolsey factory in Belgrave

A protest march against racism at the Imperial Typewriters factory in Leicester, 1974

A protest march against racism at the Imperial Typewriters factory in Leicester, 1974

H Chandarana began by buying a petrol station

“We started our own business... we bought another petrol station after 18 months. I used to work from seven in the morning until eleven, seven days a week. Slowly, slowly I make fourteen garages”.


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The Economic, Social and Cultural Impact