Europeans fear recession’s impact on discrimination


Sixty-four percent of f Europeans believe the economic crisis will bring more discrimination in the job market, according to a new Eurobarometer opinion survey released by the European Commission this week (9 November).

The European opinion poll revealed a clear link with the current economic situation: 64% of people expect the downturn will lead to more age discrimination in the job market. 

In addition, 48% of respondents consider age to be a disadvantage when seeking employment, an increase of 3 percentage points since the last survey.

A majority of Europeans also expect the crisis to lead to higher levels of discrimination on the grounds of disability (56%) and ethnic origin (57%) on the job market. Seventy-nine percent of Hungarians and 74% of Czechs declare that age discrimination is more or less spread in their respective countries, which post the highest percentages in the EU.

However, the Eurobarometer survey revealed that personal experience of discrimination remained largely stable since last year’s survey.

Overall, 16% of Europeans reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation in 2009, the same level as in 2008. 

Only one in three Europeans are aware of their rights if they were a victim of discrimination or harassment. 

However, there are considerable differences at national level. Awareness has increased in several countries since the 2008 survey: in the UK (+8 points), France (+7), Ireland and Sweden (each +6), but people seem less informed on discrimination in countries like Poland (-12) and Portugal (-11). 

Raising public awareness requires joint efforts at European and national level. The European Commission is pursuing efforts in this area through the ‘For Diversity. Against Discrimination’ pan-European information campaign.

In terms of reporting cases of discrimination, most Europeans would first contact the police (55%), while 35% would get in touch with their equality body and 27% a trade union. Confidence in the various organisations working with discrimination issues differs strongly from one country to another. 

The report also shows that social circles, education and awareness-raising efforts are contributing to a better acceptance of diversity. 

“Discrimination remains a problem across Europe and people's perceptions of it are broadly stable compared to last year,” said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla

“One area of concern is the perceived rise in age discrimination as a result of the recession. These results show that despite progress, we still have a long way to go in making people more aware of their rights to equal treatment, particularly at national level and ensure that equality remains not just an empty phrase, but becomes reality,” he added. 

“The perception of discrimination remains high,” declared the Social Platform. “62% of those who belong to minorities declared that there are not enough efforts to tackle discriminations,” added the civil society alliance. 

Moreover, “the Social Platform is especially concerned by the fact that awareness of European citizens’ rights remains very low in many EU countries.” 

Two Special Eurobarometer surveys on discrimination in Europe were conducted in 2006 and 2008 to track how perceptions and opinions have changed in recent years (EURACTIV 03/07/08). 

The survey published this week (9 November) was conducted between 29 May and 15 June 2009, with a sample of 26,756 people interviewed in 30 European countries (27 EU Member States and for the first time the three candidate countries: Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey).

New questions were added on the impact of the recession on the perceived level of discrimination. 

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