Executive summary

AuthorTina Weber - Catherine Cerf
Discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race
and ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and
gender identity remain widespread, both at the
workplace and in wider society.1 Data indicate that
discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin, in
particular, has increased in recent years. This may be
viewed in the broader context of the rise of populist,
anti-immigration political parties in several European
Discrimination and the lack of workplace diversity bring
with them significant human, as well as economic,
costs. Social partners have a key role to play in
combating discrimination at work (as well as in wider
society). Some of the main ways they can do this are: by
helping to shape relevant legislation and policy, raising
awareness of the rights and obligations of workers and
employers, monitoring workplace practices, concluding
collective agreements, enforcing codes of conduct,
undertaking research, supporting their members in case
of litigation concerning equal treatment and/or
engaging in strategic litigation.
EU legal and policy context
The principle of non-discrimination is enshrined in the
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Pillar
of Social Rights underlines the right to equal treatment
and opportunities for everyone. EU secondary law, in
particular the Employment Equality Directive and the
Race Equality Directive, prohibits discrimination on the
grounds of age, religion, disability, sexual orientation
and racial/ethnic origin at the workplace. Both
directives call on Member States to ‘take adequate
measures to promote dialogue between the social
partners, with a view to fostering equal treatment’.
Member States must encourage social partners to
conclude collective agreements laying down
non-discrimination rules, affording at least the
minimum protection enshrined in the two EU
non-discrimination directives.
This report is based on information gathered with the
assistance of the Network of Eurofound Correspondents
following an ad hoc request from the European
Commission to Eurofound. The underlying aim is to
provide an input into the Commission’s upcoming
report on the implementation of the two
anti-discrimination directives scheduled for 2021. This
exercise was conducted before the United Kingdom
(UK) left the EU on 31 January 2020. Where relevant,
findings are reported for the current 27 EU Member
States, Norway and the UK. This is in line with Eurostat’s
guidelines on publishing statistics in the transition
period up to the end of 2020 (Eurostat, 2020).
Prevalence of workplace
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey
(EWCS) is the only EU-level survey providing data on the
experience of workplace discrimination on various
grounds. Between 2005 and 2015, the share of
respondents declaring that they had experienced
discrimination in the workplace increased from 5% to
7%, with different levels and trend developments
reported across the Member States. Among the forms of
discrimination, age discrimination was the most
common and was more frequently reported by both
younger and older workers.
National-level data – utilising different methodologies
and targeting different populations (and hence not
comparable) – tend to record higher shares of workers
experiencing discrimination in the labour market. Age
discrimination also tends to be the most prevalent form
here. Both younger and older workers report the highest
levels of discrimination experienced during the process
of recruitment. For younger workers, there is also an
ongoing discussion in a number of Member States
linked to differential minimum wage rates for younger
workers. Evidence from national surveys and studies
also reveals high levels of disability-based
discrimination. Combined with shortcomings in the
education system, which can place people with
disabilities at a disadvantage, discriminatory practices
and attitudes in the recruitment process contribute to a
disability employment gap of around 20% in the EU
(Eurofound, 2018b).
Research based on the submission of fictitious CVs to
online vacancy or recruitment websites also
demonstrates the persistence of discrimination on the
basis of race and ethnic origin in recruitment, with often
significant gaps in the likelihood of a callback. Studies
from Croatia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania bear out
the particular challenges faced by Roma job applicants.
Executive summary
1It should be noted that sex discrimination is not specifically covered in this report.

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