Conference on discrimination highlights gap between laws and practice.
Europe has tough anti-discrimination laws but equal treatment is still a long way off. The equality summit in Paris on 29-30 September was a chance for equal opportunity experts to review what has been achieved since an EU-wide campaign against discrimination in 2007.
The job market is still rife with inequalities. Women earn 15% less than men (25% less in the private sector) and get fewer top jobs. Only 50% of disabled people have a job, compared with 68% of able-bodied people. And both young and old still complain of age discrimination.
These same groups also face discrimination in healthcare, education, social security and housing. In July, the European Commission proposed legislation that would provide protection in these areas. It supplements existing laws banning discrimination in employment.
But tackling discrimination requires more than effective laws. One goal of the conference was to explore how to change deeply rooted patterns of behaviour and longstanding institutional and professional practices.
It’s not always easy to get a clear picture of discrimination in Europe. EU countries have different ways of collecting data, making comparisons difficult, if not impossible.
However, according to a recent survey, Europeans see discrimination based on race or ethnic origin as the most common form of discrimination in the EU – and one that is increasing. Other kinds of discrimination are perceived to be either decreasing (age, gender) or at least not getting worse (sexual orientation).