A majority of Europeans (52%) believe that the economic crisis is leading to greater racism and discrimination in the workplace. Despite this, the long-term trend in Europe – including declining fertility rates, increasing female participation and increasing immigration rates since at least the 1960s – means that shared institutions such as workplaces are likely to become even more diverse in future.

Everyday discrimination, whether at work, school or elsewhere, doesn’t necessarily have to involve an open and dramatic violation of a person’s human rights. It can also include subtle, low level harassment or unequal treatment based on ethnic origin, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation or other factors.

It could involve an enterprise laying off employees and choosing to first get rid of the youngest (or oldest) employees. Or, perhaps a company offers a different hourly wage for male or female employees. Maybe a person from an ethnic minority is told, when applying for a job, that a position has already been filled (even though this is not the case).

To illustrate some of the challenges and issues under discussion, we’ve put together the infographic below (click for a bigger version).


We spoke to Kari Käsper, one of the founders and the Executive Director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre, and asked him what he thought. In terms of ordinary, everyday discrimination – in the workplace, for example – do we already have in place the legislation we need? Would a new EU Directive be useful? Or is it more a question of enforcement? And, if so, what can be done to promote better enforcement?

kari-200x200Human rights have no meaning if they have no impact in the everyday lives of people. Sure, we do need better laws at the EU and national levels, including the long-awaited horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive, but in our experience even the non-discrimination legislation that exists now is rarely used. The implementation of the equality directives has been really lacking, at least in Estonia. Our politicians were very open when they stated that they would only adopt this law to avoid an infringement proceeding, which means that there was absolutely no political will to ensure that it actually has any impact.

This is dangerous, because the credibility and legitimacy of the EU is lessened if its directives in this important area have no actual impact on the everyday lives of individuals. Better enforcement can happen only if the Member States take these matters seriously and right now they do not, as is evidenced by the extremely low investment in this area. Estonia’s equality body, for example, has been given almost no resources to fulfill the tasks envisaged in the Equal Treatment Act. So there needs to be more political prioritisation and investment in this area in order to achieve results.

Each European citizen can do their own part by standing up against discrimination, going to court if necessary, and by demanding from their government answers about why more has not been done. Through these kind of concrete acts, and not words, we build a common Europe.

Finally, we spoke to Claire Fernandez, Deputy Director of Policy at the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). We asked her what the picture looked like across the EU; how diverse are European workplaces, and what sort of challenges do people face from different ethnic and minority backgrounds?

claire-fernandezWe can’t really know how diverse workplaces are if we don’t have the data to measure that diversity… Unfortunately, data on ethnic backgrounds in the labour market is not being collected at the moment… What we can measure are the origin of people – their country of origin and the country of origin of their parents.

What the available data shows is that there are indeed challenges and discrimination both at the level of recruitment and in the workplace. Basically, it’s a system of structural discrimination is in place which means that if there are less ethnically diverse people entering the labour market via recruitment then there will also be less diversity in the workplace. And, on top of that, ethnic minorities and migrants will face discrimination throughout their career paths.

In the workplace, some of this discrimination manifests as a glass ceiling mechanism, which means that the higher you go up the career ladder the less diversity you will find. It can also manifest itself in harder working conditions, racial harassment, abusive dismissal, but also discrimination on the basis of things like wearing religious symbols.

So, the challenges are here, but there is also a problem in that it’s hard for people to complain about these issues in the workplace. People fear retaliation, they fear they will lose their jobs or they just don’t know where to go to complain. So, the European Network Against Racism has been working with companies, NGOs and decision-makers in order to develop solutions. We are working, for example, on certification with external evaluators that would look at companies and see how they perform on diversity issues.

We do believe that employers should have internal mechanisms where people can go and complain without losing their jobs, and that generally employers should make an effort in accomodating religious and cultural diversity. Ultimately, they will make their workforce perform better, because if you value diversity and make sure people feel comfortable in the workplace you are more likely to see an improvement in performance results.

Have YOU ever encountered discrimination at work or in school? Should European citizens do more to stand up to everyday discrimination? And do governments take these challenges seriously in all countries in Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Rasmus Andersson

54 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    James McManama

    Personally, not really at work. Maybe at school as the children of British parents in New Zealand – but that wasn’t so bad! :-D

  2. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    yes of course… even in the Spanish government, the security personel is probably working 60 hours per week… the same as in the institute I am working on… the personel of security are working 60 hours per week and this is a government building.. but of course, the security agency is a sub-contracted one…

    • avatar
      Chalks Corriette

      I love your comment – sorry I did not see it last year. I have often said that we do not have a youth unemployment issue. We do have a government policy issue, and we have have a big business issue. If you empower people to choose the way they wish to work, be paid and live thier life – the coporate world would loose so many workers not willing to deal with these idiots any longer…

  3. avatar
    James Beckles

    Employers must stamp out discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. Those racially harassing or bullying their colleagues should be immediately reprimanded. It’s not tolerable that anyone from a minority group should be victimised at work.

  4. avatar
    hans van veen

    Each and every day!
    The Dutch truckers need to attend extra education keeping their skills up the date in the transport branch. Also, ( applying for another job or better function ) the transport companies require often prove for succesfull passing these exams.
    Numerous collegue truckers from abroad have shown me their drivers license, whose license doesn`t even shown the blanks for these extra skills.
    In that society the Dutch, Belgium and German truckers will always be to expensive for a job as trucker compared with the cheaper truckers from East Middle and Southern Europe.

    • avatar

      You wanted to be in the EU, this is the price you pay. When there is more cheaper labour available, companies will nearly always ditch the more expensive labourer for the cheaper one.

      And there’s more to come, TTIP trade treaty will move even more jobs to low wage countries (note: the propaganda about TTIP disingeniously claims the opposite). And guess what, the EU is all for it…

  5. avatar
    catherine benning

    Yes, for being too clever by half. I was always bypassed and disliked intensely because I questioned teachers who had no answer. I was the little madam who had ideas above my station. And worse, I was expected to bring the others on whilst I had to mark time. And nothing has changed, In fact it’s worse now than it ever was. Don’t be in the group that the PC brigade snub. Find some kind of fake reason to get their blessing, like, walk with a limp, pretend kinship to a favoured background or feign sexual deviance. That way you will soar like a bird against all the odds.

    Today I read that fee paying schools are to be compelled to close if they don’t bring down their standards and reduce the ability of their pupils in order to assist a government who has derided and rejected their teaching methods for decades. This was done in order to pretend the stupidity of a ‘comprehensive’ education, which was pushed to the exclusion of all others, was the way to raise the intellectual ability of the lacking. They now want to abolish higher education in order to give degrees to illiterate poets with the vocabulary of buffoons, so anyone with a free thinking mind must be stomped on. Otherwise the prize monkey will be left in the remedial class.

    It’s laughable to watch an idiot on TV who is hailed as an incredible brain because he/she has a politically correct challenge. LOL I sat thorough this conspiracy Sunday last, and realised as I did, a lot of work has to be done by all of us to flatten and reject the rise of the inept in order to keep those in power in their money making tax funded frauds. Which is done to make sure their dim wit offspring can move into the seats they are keeping warm for them.

    Feel I’m off beam? Think of the Blair creature misfits, the ones he plans to roll into Westminster on his back, and the Kinnock half wits, along with the spiv Chukka Ummuna (don’t know how to spell it and not inclined to look it up) with unbelievable nepotism. All of them unable to reach positions they crave on their own steam. And if you check out those in our seats of power today, you will find very few ‘outsiders’ who made it via their honest intelligence and ability to use their brain in competition with others. Similar to the Monarchs really. All down to Grace and Favour.

  6. avatar

    No, and I am determined that I am never going to!

  7. avatar
    Mhitsos Xanthos

    It’s not a economic crisis. It’s a moral crisis. Remember the “to big to fail”? Trillions were given to the banksters and we have to pay the bill.

  8. avatar
    Jorg Bornhofft

    Yes – I have experienced discrimination in a situation (in 2004), and racism in a different situation (in 2004) in the same European country. In both cases, the consequences has been hard for me, and this country’s legal system does not handle “racism”.
    Additional details thereof only by direct contact to me.

  9. avatar

    Yes. Lots of times. At university I was told that I had just been outstanding in my exams, but only got a “good” mark. In almost all job interviews before 2007 I was asked what my family planning looks like, or when I had a temporary job, I was told they’d not hire me permanently because I might have children one day. At the jobcenter I was told that many employers have been fooled by females who had children and that I failed in my job life because I only ever had temporary jobs. When I had interviews for academics that matched my qualifications, the jobcenter employees told me to apply for totally different jobs and ask for a much lower wage, not knowing what jobs I had my interviews for. Then I was told that it was more important that people from other countries get a job, because they cannot be without a job, but I obviously can in their thinking. This matches what were told at school in the 1980s that we should be happy if we don’t have a job and a foreigner gets one instead, because otherwise we’d be xenophobic. I find this quite racist, towards us. Ever since 1996 elder men and women have been talking about demographic change, knowing more than I did, namely that I’d never have any children. At that time I did actually that I would possibly have any one day. Never had any because of the struggle to survive, because I didn’t get a permanent job, because I might have children one day… Officials here in this region have told media very directly that they don’t care about women living in poverty. When I told our foreign minister, then vice chancellor, that something needs to be done that young qualified women also get a job, he said that this is none of his business. The same person cut social benefits for those “not willing to work”. The list goes on. Quite unbelievable what one can experience with two university degrees and numerous additional qualifications.

  10. avatar
    Louisa Radice

    I have been discriminated against for having Asperger syndrome.

  11. avatar
    Murat Saralapov

    Yes, I have. In Russia and, to a lesser extent, in Belgium.

    Why? Because I am a Chechen, or an ‘arrogant East-European’, or just a non-promiscuous Muslim who does not stalk anyone to have sex with and will not tolerate being stalked by others for the same reasons.

    What is funny in my case is that I look like an ordinary white European and speak Russian, English and Dutch fluently. And, as a Muslim, I am not very practicing either.

    Can you imagine how much discrimination is encountered by my compatriots and other EU-based Muslims with darker skin colours, poorer language skills and more pious lifestyles?

  12. avatar

    I have read your views which are commended because every one have that human rights to view their thoughts.
    My questions would be as follows:
    Is Racism part of human DNA?
    Is Racism a Social defence or is it psychologically motivated ?
    The world have experienced such through generations .We are now into 21 century and we still face with such intolerance within society .
    Where any groups of people come together for a common good the ideology which brought them together in the first place will determine the outcome.

  13. avatar
    Kirill Zhivotovskyy

    Malin Umebladh could we start our own similar on-line debates in European Choice Ukraine? Think about first 7 questions for the next week – and we will going as our colleagues

  14. avatar
    Mirko Celii

    obviously, EU is destroying greece, the less richeness there is, the more racist people become to “protect” their small property and their job

  15. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Not just the workplace but everywhere. People feel cheated and are angered.. They need to address their concerns to the responsible and their government but no one listens to them. They are facing hard times and in their minds competition from “foreigners”.. They need to channel this anger somewhere.. So the tribalism instincts kick in and the migrants are targeted, since no one is listening. In many cases the governments via the media, channel this anger towards the immigrants deliberately, to escape facing it themselves and lose the grasp of their power. In other words immigrants become the perfect scapegoat.. The irony: if we don’t need them, why we employ them with lower salaries and conditions no native would work for? Think about it.

  16. avatar
    Lancos Jeno Andreas

    Amazing, always the same .. but when thousands of Christians are killed just talked about in three lines. We we European we not welcome these countries … and why? We can work safely in these countries as they do in ours …. So who and where is the racism …? It should be noted the discussions ..

  17. avatar
    Michel Percan

    Illegal immigration is leading towards incresing crime and racism towards the white europeans. We seek more protection of our culture and tradition, and full implatantion of law.

  18. avatar
    Dimitris Tsekouras

    As we will learn , and we will learn, to behave to any child like to be our own child, to every woman and man like to be our own sister and brother, to every older person, like to be our own parent, then we will stop any kind of crisis. But as during the crisis, we stop our education, then we don’t help at all the situation.

  19. avatar
    Giannis Lainas

    As the economic situation for native europeans gets worse and worse,racism will only get worse and worse.Immigrants are the *easy* target,the *easy* enemy for a lot of ignorant people outwhere…..

  20. avatar
    Dionìs Koçi

    Immigration for economical reasons will be good only as long as the reasons last. People should not look only at economical possibilities when they choose a country to live in long term, not only because the economical situation usually changes with the time, but also because other aspects, as social life and integration potential, are important in everyday life (even in times when economy is good – money is not everything! ).

  21. avatar
    Dulce Viegas

    Eu nao o vejo sobre esse prisma ,no meu pais trabalham os estrangeiros e os portugueses estao em casa

  22. avatar
    Rita Cortis Coleiro

    Britain, Spain, France and Belgium, are four countries that have exploited their continent to the utmost, yet they do not lift a finger to help in Mediterranean Crisis, why should we, the most over populated Island in the world !!!

  23. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    This is going the same way as the USA a few years ago. Now racism is a mayor topic in the USA because government wanted it to be. And the EU is going the same way. Racism is not a problem, the problem are people that do not integrate, are criminals, illegals taking jobs and so on. No matter what color their skin is.

  24. avatar
    Lukas Antonis

    European people always were racists from the ancient years and will always be with or without crisis…

  25. avatar
    Rafael Cejas Acuña

    The race issue is used as a tool by several far right parties, look Le Pen in France, Farage in the UK, Salvini in Italy…we would never know if it is a real problem of the European societies or if these parties created it to serve for their own interests.

  26. avatar
    Eva Benko Zoltan

    It will, The fault is of the oligarqies that don’t want us to get out of the crises , they want to exploit the crises to the maximum. Human lives for them have no importance.

  27. avatar
    Inês Valente

    I don’t think its worse in Portugal from what I’ve seen. I do think however, we’re all treating each other worse, people are sad, tired and angry. What kind of Europe can be built this way?

  28. avatar
    Juan Martinez

    Sure, use a picture of man in front of
    the Palau de la General in Barcelona, mostly sure got illegally in the country and now he has some sort of complain in a country that has more than 20% unemployment. I’m sure that he would be much better in the place he cones from.

  29. avatar

    Yes this European crisis it is leading to grater racism because government is not doing anything to separate criminals from refugees and immigrants because police/government is afraid to be called racist. So you have unprotected citizens that notice crime increase and terrorism acts in their cities and they start to be racist because no one is handling this issue. Government should deport all criminals that have done smallest crimes to show that it will not be tolerated, that would stop crimes and people would feel more safe and it would stop racism.

  30. avatar
    Nikos Themelis

    The economic crisis is leading to greater racism and xenophobia in Europe,not only in the workplace.

  31. avatar

    racism over 50 years of age in the Greek area employers do to my age will not hire.

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