Anti-LGBT discrimination ‘damages Eastern Europe’s economic growth’

File photo. Pairs of shoes belonging to members of Romania's LGBT+ community are arranged around a rainbow-colored flag at a rally in downtown Bucharest, Romania, 22 May 2016. The event is organized to raise awareness about the so-called 'invisible' members of the LGBT+ community in Romania. [EPA/EFE/Bogdan Cristel]

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people costs Eastern European countries almost 2% a year in economic growth, a coalition of dozens of global companies promoting LGBT+ inclusion said on Tuesday (27 April).

Hungary, Poland, Romania and Ukraine are losing billions of dollars each year due to the lack of equal workplace rights for LGBT+ people and factors such as higher health costs related to HIV/AIDS and depression, said Open For Business (OFB).

They are also facing a “brain drain” of skilled workers and struggling to win foreign investment, found OFB, which is backed by tech giants Google and Microsoft, Barclays and Deutsche Bank, spirits group Diageo and accounting firms PWC, EY and KPMG.

“Countries that are more open (in terms of LGBT+ rights) are generally speaking financially and economically in a much better place,” the report’s lead author George Perlov told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Gay sex is legal in all four countries, but none allow same-sex marriage and LGBT+ people have faced physical attacks, which make it hard to live openly.

In Poland, about 100 municipalities have signed declarations saying they are free of “LGBT ideology”, leading the European Union (EU) last year to withhold funding.

French minister says Poland stymied his visit to 'LGBT-free' zone

French Europe Minister Clément Beaune said he was dissuaded by Polish authorities from visiting what he called an “LGBT-free zone” in defence of civil liberties on a trip to Poland, but the government in Warsaw denied it had blocked access.

European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, who was behind the EU decision, said tackling discrimination against LGBT+ people would be beneficial economically, not just in terms of equality and fairness.

“It will also give companies that embrace it a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent,” she said in a statement.

The report, which was part-funded by Google, also found a majority of local companies in the four countries backed LGBT+ equality and diversity in the workplace.

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