The concept of diversity and inclusion in the labor market have since dominated the policy space and have enjoyed several discussions at both global and national levels. Apart from its economic benefits, it also serves as an important pillar in achieving the sustainable development goals1and the aim of living no one behind. It embraces equality, acceptance, and fair treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability. While diversity and inclusion are used together to describe fairness, equality, non-discrimination etc, they are interconnected but mean different things.
The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” have no single agreed definition. They are used in various contexts, scenarios and even at various levels including societal level, individual level, and organizational level to describe situations where people from different cultural, socioeconomic and societal backgrounds, belonging to a different race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability come together with the same objective(s) of achieving a set goal(s). Both terms are anchored under several United Nations declarations and covenants including, for instance, the UN Universal declaration of human right2and the Universal declaration on cultural diversity3. Both instruments stress the importance of respecting every individual based on the right to exist and associate on an equal basis without any form of discrimination(s).
The EU has strong commitments regarding diversity and inclusion. This is anchored in several instruments and declarations including the charterof the fundamental right of the European Union4. Specifically, chapter III of the charter stresses the importance of Equality. Articles 20, 21, 22, 23, and 26 emphasized the principle of Equality before the law, Non-discrimination on any ground including sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation. Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, Equality between men and women (inclusive of employment, work and pay), and the Integration of persons with disabilities.
“When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.” – Ava DuVernay
No doubt that the terms “diversity and inclusion” has generated a lot of debate in recent years. While several efforts and commitments at global, regional, and national levels are geared towards ensuring a higher level of diversity and inclusion in workplaces, there is still much to be done to make it a reality. For instance, in the EU, such efforts include the racial equality directive5, the anti-racism action plan 2020-20256, the people first initiative7 (specific focus on gender equality, antiracism, Roma community, LGBTIQ persons, and persons with disabilities), and commitments from organizations (private and public including NGOs, employers, etc) towards the diversity charter8, and the EU diversity month9; an annual event where a month is dedicated towards raising awareness about diversity and inclusion in workplaces across the EU.
Despite of the commitments made by several EU countries toward the realization of diversity and inclusion, discrimination still persists in the region. For instance, a report by Eurofound10 on working conditions and sustainable work revealed that first-generation immigrants (both male and female) are at least 5 times more likely to experience work-related discrimination based on race, ethnic background/color, religion, and nationality.
Figure 2: Work-related discrimination by migrant status and sex – Source: Eurofound
Persons with disabilities still face discrimination in the workplace in the EU despite several strategies and initiatives to improve their employment situation. Records show that only 50.6 % of persons with disabilities are employed, compared to 74.8 % of persons without disabilities11. This revealed a shortfall of the 75% target set to be achieved by the Union. While efforts are being made by countries to achieve inclusion and promote diversity of persons with disabilities in the region, evidence shows disproportionate statistics across member states. Thirteen countries (AT, DK, EE, FI, FR, IT, LV, NL, PT, SE, SI, and SK) have employment rates of persons with disabilities higher than the EU average of 50.6%, while ten (BE, BG, EL, ES, HR, HU, IE, MT, PL, and RO).