The Group of Progressive Alliance Socialists and Democrats hosted on the 17th March 2014 the launch of ENAR’s shadow report on discrimination in Employment at the European Parliament. ENAR, a EU-wide network of NGOs present in every European including Iceland, has a history in fighting racism and discrimination since the 1997 European Year Against Racism, connecting a wide network of local and international organization that stand for equality and social inclusion.
Opening remarks by the ENAR director Michael Privot stressed the fact that today’s Europe has all the means to ensure a dignifying life for all its citizens. “Europe has never been so rich as it is today” he emphasized with regard to the ambitious goals on social welfare sets by the 2020 agenda and the actual lack of effective measures to tackle the issue of inequality. “We are pushing countries to commit to social investment as a way to revive the European economy”, said Mr Privot also recognized a lack of data on the impact of macroeconomic policies on social welfare.
Sarah Isal, elected ENAR Chair in 2013, presented the key findings of a Report that comes out in a time where employment is severely hit by what she calls “the most brutal economic crisis of modern times in Europe. According to the surveys more than 50% of the Europeans consider the economic crisis to be a major contributor to discrimination in the labour market on the grounds of ethnic origin.
The lack of quantitative data on equality has also been addressed as a cause of ineffective and uniformed policymaking, whereas the ENAR suggestion to EU institutions and Member States is to adopt a common framework for data collection and analysis. In the end “if we are not counted, we do not count”, to cite the ENAR’s Chair.
ENAR individuates the five most vulnerable groups to discrimination in employment being migrants from non-EU Member States, Muslims, Roma, People of African descent and Black European and women with a minority or migrant background. Those broad categories face multiple and subtle discriminatory practices that set different kind of barriers both in the access to employment and on the workplace: in France discriminatory practices in the recruitment phase hit black people living in disadvantaged areas on the basis of their address, in the Netherlands 57% of the of recruitment agencies complied with the request to not introduce Moroccan, Turkish and Surinamese candidates. Shocking figures that show how the issue of racism directly impacts the economic prospects of many who live in Europe.
ENAR’s report also found out that discriminatory practices endure at the workplace: exploitation and harassment towards toward migrant workers are rife in European countries, glass-ceiling effect (lack of career prospects) and lower salaries than national average are also commonplace. To address these issues no comprehensive strategy has been put in place and only regional and local initiatives that risk to be “lost in the vacuum” if not supported by a full-reaching vision.
Nonetheless even national initiatives are undergoing substantial cuts in their budget. Furthermore access to judiciary remedies remains scarce: in Greece no complaint has been brought before court on the basis of religious or racial discrimination on the workplace in the last three years. Despite all this, ENAR finds that private actors, NGOs and the public sector has huge potential in reversing the situation, even though their action has been judged insufficient so far. A positive role could be played by the public sector to generate a spin-off of good practices, as so Diversity Charters have also a huge potential in gathering diversity-minded managers to enforce a virtuous regime of equitable employment, a subject also stressed by Kari Kasper, Executive Director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre.
Kinga Göncz, MEP of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialist and Democrats and former Foreign Ministry of Hungary, highlighted the difficulty in relying on State’s data that are often “rosy” on the figures regarding workers discrimination and criticized the mainstream governmental discourse depicting unemployment and immigration as two conflicting issues.
Judith Sargentini of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance of the European Parliament stated the importance of the legal status of migrants and the adversities they face when their legal position is precarious. She also agrees with ENAR’s proposition to enact a common European labour inspection standard to fully implement the legislative framework set out by the new Directive on seasonal workers recently adopted by the Council.
Many the interventions on the subject raised by the public of NGOs, scholars and politicians attending the conference: among them EU-Logos raised the point of how citizenship is a de-facto requirement in the public sector recruitment process (even for non-sensible positions) and how a step forward toward the inclusion of non-EU nationals in this respect could trigger a positive spin-off for the private sector (not counting that in many EU countries the public sector accounts for a significant share of the GDP).
Links and further readings :
– ENAR’s shadow report: (EN)
– ENAR’s shadow report key findings (short version): (EN)