Sunday, 17 July 2011

EU Commission: LGBT people and labour market in the 27 EU Member States

Network of socio-economic experts in the non-discrimination field VT-2008-007

Barbara van Balen, Ursula Barry,
Ronald Holzhacker, Elisabeth Villagomez, Katrin Wladasch


- The attitudes of politicians towards LGBT people and their rights to equal participation in all areas of society play an important role in influencing general attitudes. Public utterances of homophobic opinions by members of parliament (Cyprus, Romania) or other politicians (Bulgaria, Malta, Slovakia) have had a significantly negative impact on general public opinion towards homosexuals. In addition, the silence of institutional actors, as in Greece, or the influence of churches and religious institutions should not be overlooked as negative factors.

- In Malta a case of a lesbian women is reported who had been confronted in a workshop for trainee therapists with a trainer describing ‘being gay’ as constituting a ‘psychological illness’. The same trainer was deemed competent to set up an examination for becoming a therapist.

- Insecurity about how to handle specific needs of or harassment towards transgender people in transition was revealed by research in Malta, 38 showing that a high percentage (58.1 per cent) of employers were aware of the need for protection, but when asked how they would ensure this the majority did not answer the question.

- In Malta the National Commission for the Protection of Equality between Men and Women (NCPE) does not have the power to consider complaints related to discrimination based on the ground of sexual orientation. The NCPE has undertaken projects raising the awareness of all six grounds of discrimination covered by the EU directives These include the projects Voice for All and MOSAIC.

- In Malta the NGO MGRM has been involved in an ESF 60 project entitled ‘Inclusion of Transgender Individuals into the Labour Market’, which considered the attitudes of employers towards transgender job seekers and employees. The issue of transgender people and the labour market is one barely addressed by many equality bodies, the social partners or even by NGOs which may focus more on LGB than transgender issues. The information from this project could
be used as a starting point to establish similar programmes targeting transgender people in the labour market in other Member States.

- The main difficulty in assessing the employment situation of LGBT people is the lack of information and reliable data. In most countries there are no official data and a very limited number of research studies. Most information comes from small-scale studies or NGOs, which do not have the resources needed to conduct national-level studies. As a result, it is very difficult to obtain reliable data concerning discrimination against LGBT people in terms of access to
employment or self-employment. This situation is even more difficult in countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria and Hungary, where there is not even more ‘generic’ research about LGBT issues. In Romania the latest research on LGBT issues dates from 1999 and 2003. Moreover, in countries such as Greece, Malta and Luxembourg these data are considered ‘sensitive personal data’ and publicising such data is prohibited by law. Official data about the proportion of
LGBT people in the population is widely recognised as an unreliable profile of sexual diversity. The Special Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in the EU, published in November 2009, confirms this situation: only a small percentage of people define themselves as part of a sexual minority, with an average of one per cent.

- A number of good practice policy initiatives have been identified from a wide variety of countries with different societal attitudes towards LGBT people in the areas of employment, education and vocational training, mainstreaming of equality policies and multiple discrimination. For example, in the area of employment, in the UK one NGO is conducting a major national benchmarking exercise, in Poland NGOs are reaching out to unions at home and abroad to begin to raise awareness and in Malta an NGO is assessing the labour market for transgender individuals. In the Netherlands mainstreaming of LGBT policies is reported to be very advanced at national and also local level. Finally, in terms of multiple discrimination, an LGBT NGO in Germany is reaching out to intercultural groups to be more inclusive of LGBT people with a minority ethnic background.

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