Working conditions and sustainable work

Racial discrimination is not a thing of the past in the EU

Although EU law guarantees equal treatment for all among its founding principles, discrimination in the EU is not a thing of the past. Across Europe, 2% of workers report experiencing discrimination at work linked to each of the following: race, ethnic background, colour and nationality. A joint Eurofound–ILO report comparing working conditions globally found that discrimination at work can have a negative impact on people’s physical and mental health, as well as impeding their career prospects. Overall, experiencing discrimination means lower job quality.

Migrants experience this discrimination to a greater extent, as illustrated in the figure below. Eurofound has found that 10% of first-generation migrants and 5% of the second generation report discrimination linked to race, ethnic background or colour – much higher than the 1% of natives reporting this experience.

Figure: Proportion of workers who experience discrimination on different grounds, by migrant status and sex (2015)

The experience of discrimination among migrants is independent of earnings: both high-earning and low-earning workers with a foreign background come up against discrimination, and this experience is linked to poorer working conditions overall. While these findings are not new (nor surprising), a global movement has recently put racial discrimination and racism high on the public agenda. Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the College of EU Commissioners would have a structured debate on racism on 24 June. In her speech to the European Parliament, she clearly stated that ‘racism has no place in our Union’ and called for an open and honest conversation about racism and discrimination in ‘the justice system and law enforcement, in the labour and housing markets, in education and healthcare, in politics and migration’.

Eurofound’s work, as reflected in its mission to improve living and working conditions, addresses prejudice based on race and ethnicity in a multitude of research projects, publications and data outputs. One of its flagship surveys, the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), on which the above findings are based, will provide updated data on discrimination in the workplace in 2021.

Eurofound has in recent years placed a spotlight on the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers and argued for the need to integrate them into the labour market – not only for social cohesion in Europe, but also for economic and political cohesion. It has found that public services, such as housing, social services, health and education, play a vital role in integrating refugees and asylum- seekers into society and the communities in which they live. These services, as well as those provided by NGOs, require adequate support to able to respond to refugees’ needs, particularly in relation to mental health, cultural and communication barriers.

The Agency’s work has highlighted that labour market integration is more difficult for people with a foreign background generally. Integration does not happen automatically but requires targeted and effective policies. Eurofound’s research highlights the need for a nuanced approach to policymaking in this area by all actors. Governments, employers and trade unions alike have an important role to play in combating racism and discrimination, and a responsibility to do so. In a forthcoming report (August 2020), Eurofound assesses the role of the social partner organisations in shaping workplaces and tackling workplace discrimination, specifically.


Image©Stefano Guidi/Shutterstock

Onderzoek dat is uitgevoerd vóór de terugtrekking van het VK uit de Europese Unie op 31 januari 2020 en dat vervolgens is gepubliceerd, kan gegevens over de 28 EU-lidstaten bevatten. Na deze datum wordt bij onderzoek alleen rekening gehouden met de 27 EU-lidstaten (EU28 minus het VK), tenzij anders vermeld.

In dit verslag worden de resultaten gepresenteerd van onderzoek dat vóór de uitbraak van COVID-19 in Europa in februari 2020 is uitgevoerd. Daarom wordt bij de resultaten geen rekening gehouden met de uitbraak.

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