Trends in discrimination are critical to evaluate the extent to which Western societies are (or are not) achieving the fundamental goal of ensuring fair and equal treatment regardless of race and ethnicity.
Analysis of data from six European and North American countries showed that levels of racial discrimination in hiring have remained largely unchanged over the past several decades. Some evidence, such as survey data on racial attitudes, suggests decreasing racial discrimination in Western countries over time.
Lincoln Quillian and John Lee analyzed results from 90 field experiments of hiring discrimination conducted from 1970 to 2018 in which equally qualified fictitious White and non-White candidates applied for real jobs and callbacks were recorded. The dataset included more than 1,70,000 job applications from Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States.
The authors found that levels of racial discrimination in hiring have remained steady in most countries for most racial-ethnic groups.
However, a small increase in discrimination in the Netherlands and a decrease in discrimination in France were noted.
The decline in France went from “very high” to “merely high” levels. Further, hiring discrimination against ethnic groups with origins in the Middle East and North Africa increased during the 2000s relative to the 1990s.
According to the authors, further efforts are needed to reduce persistent racial and ethnic biases in Western labour markets.
Persistent discrimination in labour markets in North America and Europe has been demonstrated most clearly by field experiments in which investigators use testers or submit applications by mail or over the internet for jobs with clues indicating the race or ethnicity of applicants.
These experiments show that on average in Western countries native Whites receive about 50% more callbacks than similarly qualified non-White applicants. This does not include significant additional discrimination that occurs after the callback.
Given the clear evidence of continuing discrimination, a critical remaining question is the trajectory of change over time. Both popular and academic discussions often assume a trajectory of declining racial and ethnic discrimination. Measurement of trends in discrimination is essential to evaluate this assumption and the success of policy efforts to reduce discrimination.
The prediction that discrimination will tend to decline over time was developed in classic postwar social and economic theories. Modernization theorists proposed that ascriptive inequalities–notably race/ethnicity, gender, and class background–would be replaced by achieved inequalities because employers in modern economies selected employees based on rationalized criteria tied to achievement, especially educational credentials.
The prediction that discrimination would decline was also made in Becker’s (1957) classic economic account of discrimination. Becker argued that discrimination grounded in employer prejudices should be eventually eliminated in competitive markets because it was an inefficient practice.
Historical accounts viewed systemic factors as less determinative, instead pointing toward contingent changes in culture and law. Scholars have suggested at least four changes that may have reduced discrimination in employment since the mid-1970s. The first change is the international diffusion of antidiscrimination movements and minority group rights.
During World War II and the Cold War, Western countries attempted to claim superiority based on their democratic and inclusive systems, which were contradicted by the persistence of open racial and ethnic discrimination. International organizations and social justice movements subsequently adopted and spread a discourse declaring minority group rights as fundamental human rights. Countries increasingly faced international scrutiny for their treatment of minority groups, with beneficial effects for minority groups in many contexts.
The second change is alterations to racial attitudes. Survey data show sharp declines after 1970 in biological racist beliefs and support for the “right” of Whites to discriminate, corresponding to a rising norm against discrimination. This change is well-documented in the United States.
Evidence from national datasets in Europe indicates changes in attitudes similar to those in the United States, with some variation across countries.
The third change is the strengthening of anti-discrimination laws. Racial discrimination in employment was made illegal in the United States in 1964, in Great Britain in 1968, in France in 1972, in Canada in 1977, in the Netherlands in 1994, and in Germany in 2006.
The definition of prohibited discrimination and the extent of enforcement varied widely across these countries. In the United States, the basis of anti-discrimination enforcement was the victims’ right to sue in Civil Court for damages. Legal reforms over time increased the plaintiff’s chances of winning and the magnitude of possible compensation for damages, most notably in a 1991 reform.
In Europe, early laws against discrimination varied greatly in their concepts of discrimination and methods of enforcement, including both criminal and civil penalties. Enforcement actions were less frequent than in the United States; in some countries, discrimination was not made illegal until the 1990s or later.
In 2000, the European Union adopted a racial equality directive that required member states to pass laws making racial and ethnic discrimination illegal (if such a law was not already on the books). The equality directive also required antidiscrimination laws to meet specific standards for the definition of discrimination and means of enforcement. European states have gradually incorporated these more extensive antidiscrimination provisions into national laws since 2000.
The final change was the adoption of corporate and government policies aiming to increase their workforces’ racial and ethnic diversity. These policies include hiring chief diversity officers, diversity training, mentoring programs for people of colour and women seeking promotion, recruitment from diverse hiring pipelines, and monitoring their workforces’ racial/ethnic composition.
While some of these measures are weak lip-service, evidence suggests that some diversity management policies have positively affected the hiring and promotion of non-Whites and women. Large American companies and bureaucracies have most readily adopted these policies. To a lesser extent, they are also present in European and Canadian companies (for a discussion of corporate diversity policies in European government and corporate bureaucracies.
However, other social and political developments suggest a less optimistic picture of discrimination trends. In response to racial attitude changes, sceptics have pointed out that support for active policies to reduce racial inequality and beliefs in negative stereotypes have shown relatively minor changes over time. A number of “new racism” accounts have argued that the apparent decline of racism from attitude surveys misses the fact that racism largely took on a more subtle and covert form.
A final reason to believe discrimination may have increased, especially against groups perceived as Muslim, is international conflicts between Islamic extremists and Western countries. Negative perceptions and hate crimes against Muslims increased following terror attacks by Islamic extremists, most notably the attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequent attacks in Europe by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq carried out by the United States and allies. (ANI)
This report is filed by ANI news service. TheNewsMill holds no responsibility for this content.