First came reform; now is the time for enforcement. Although anti-discrimination laws are becoming increasingly widespread, weak equality policies and bodies mean that victims of discrimination are often too poorly informed or supported to take the first step in the long path to justice. Most do not report their experience to the authorities.
Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?
On average, policies are only slightly favourable for victims of discrimination to be informed of their rights and seek justice. Victims are best informed and supported to seek justice in traditional destination countries (Canada, New Zealand and the US) and some EU Member States (Finland, Portugal and Sweden). Nearly all MIPEX countries now have dedicated laws fighting ethnic, racial and religious discrimination. Since the adoption of EU law in 2000, anti-discrimination has been the greatest and most consistent area of improvement in integration policy across Europe.
Over the past five years, seven MIPEX countries have made positive reforms to discrimination policy (Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxemburg, Slovenia and Turkey). In that same time, only one country, Israel, has seen a rollback in its anti-discrimination approach.
More than half of the MIPEX countries now protect against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination in all areas of public life. China, India, Japan, Russia and Switzerland are critically lagging behind these international trends.
Despite these improvements in legal protection, equality policies are often limited to voluntary initiatives, such as action plans and diversity charters, which do not set out obligations or monitoring mechanisms. In fact, only 19 countries have positive action measures on ethnicity, race or religion. Many equality bodies are weak or relatively new, and chronically under-staffed.
Coverage in law
- Nearly half of the MIPEX countries (23) prohibit discrimination based on nationality, race, ethnicity and religion.
- In 24 countries the law covers discrimination based on two grounds (usually race/ethnicity and religion).
- Iceland, Turkey and Luxembourg have now expanded to cover all three grounds.
- No dedicated law against discrimination exists in six countries (China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Switzerland).
Fields of application
- Everyone is protected against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality-based discrimination in all areas of life in nearly half of the MIPEX countries (25).
- Gaps emerge in different areas of life: All three grounds of discrimination are most often prohibited in employment and vocational training (33), education (29) but less often in access to and supply of public goods and services (27) and social protection (26).
- Protections are critically missing or weak in many areas of life in China, Estonia, Iceland, India, Latvia, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey.
- Victims benefit from strong enforcement mechanisms in nearly half the MIPEX countries (24 countries: Canada, Mexico, US and most European countries).
- In contrast, enforcement mechanisms are weak in 11 countries: Argentina, Austria, Albania, China, Lithuania, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and Turkey.
- Specialised equality bodies to assist victims of ethnic, racial, religious and nationality-based discrimination in nearly half of the MIPEX countries (28/52).
- Equality bodies could have stronger legal standing to intervene in at least 16 countries, where they currently have limited power to investigate, assist victims or begin legal proceedings.
- Both equality bodies and policies are, to some extent, strong in Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden, and Ukraine. Victims can also turn to strong bodies in France, Hungary, Latvia, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Romania.
- The law provides for the introduction of positive actions in 33 countries.
Policies and integration outcomes: What do we learn from robust studies?
The slow expansion of anti-discrimination policies across most MIPEX countries appear to have a long-term impact on reshaping public attitudes, awareness, trust and reporting on discrimination. The links between anti-discrimination policies, discrimination and integration have been explored by over 30 independent scientific studies using MIPEX.
While discrimination occurs in all societies, people in countries with strong anti-discrimination policies are more likely to know their rights and see discrimination as a problem. Under strong policies, immigrants also tend to have greater trust in the police and legal system and a shared sense of trust in society and the country’s democratic system. Over time, people well-informed of their rights are more likely to report discrimination and less likely to identify as a discriminated minority. Policies seem strongly linked to these and other integration outcomes, but better targeted research is needed.