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Discrimination and young people in the EU


The Council of Europe Recommendation No. R (97) 20 adopted by the Committee of Ministers in 1997 on hate speech warned about “the present resurgence of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and the development of a climate of intolerance, and contained an undertaking to combat all ideologies, policies and practices constituting an incitement to racial hatred, violence and discrimination, as well as any action or language likely to strengthen fears and tensions between groups from different racial, ethnic, national, religious or social backgrounds”. The Recommendation lay the ground for member States to address the roots of this resurgence in an attempt to fight hate speech and its consequences, particularly when amplified through media.


Twenty years later, and in a context with far more media density than could have been foreseen when the Recommendation was approved, we still find worrying data concerning discrimination and intolerance in Europe. The Special Eurobarometer 493 - "Discrimination in the European Union" (Fieldwork: May 2019) indicate that an average of 17% of Europeans “have felt discriminated against or experienced harassment in the last 12 months on one or more grounds”, while those who consider themselves part of a minority group have a far worse perception of the problem. 58% of people who are part of a sexual minority express to have experienced discrimination and/or harassment. Likewise for 49% of Roma individuals, 38% of people from religious minorities, 52% of disabled people, and 40% of people from ethnic minorities.


According to the report, the EU average for parents being comfortable with their children being in a love relationship with a person with a minority identity trait are alarming: only 69% would feel comfortable with their child dating a Jewish person or a person with a disability. This drops down to 68%, 66%, 65%, 55%, 53%, 48%, 44%, 43% for an Asian person, a black person, a Buddhist person, person as the same sex as the child, a Muslim person, a Roma person, an intersex person and a transgender person respectively.



The 2015 European Commission report “Overview of Youth discrimination in the European Union” indicates that:

“Evidence suggests that young people belonging to specific minority groups are particularly vulnerable, facing discrimination on the ground of their young age on the one hand, and a personal characteristic, such as sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnicity, on the other… For those from particularly vulnerable groups such as LGBT Youths and young people from racial or ethnic minorities, the situation is clearly worse. Their difficulties begin from the earliest of ages, within schools and universities and continue into employment – both in terms of finding work and in terms of work conditions. Their experiences of discrimination have a life-time impact and can have terrible consequences for their health, self-esteem, participation and inclusion in society and for their wealth and career prospects. Discrimination sadly leads some to take their own lives.”


The 2015 European Youth Forum report “Crime beyond ‘age-only’ based discrimination: multiple discrimination and young people in Europe” indicates that young people were particularly vulnerable to discrimination on base of ethnic origin, social origin, being 18-24 years of age, gender, sexual orientation, and physical appearance. The report expresses:


The wealth of examples provided in the open questions of the survey show that multiple discrimination often has the effect of marginalising young people both in their private sphere and in society. This double burden makes young victims of discrimination feel disempowered and helpless. Furthermore, respondents underlined that their identities and social structures reciprocally impact on each other.

The report puts forth, among others, the following recommendations particularly relevant for the 1000Layers project:

  • “To embrace the complexity of young people’s identity beyond the antidiscrimination law, in other areas of policy and legislation (Youth policy, employment policy, etc.).

  • To make sure that ‘all’ young people are seen as a resource for their countries and that their real identities, life and stories are taken into account.

  • To share case studies on young people’s experiences of multiple discrimination in a Youth friendly format.

  • To increase awareness about multiple discrimination, starting at a very young age, as well as prevention of discrimination on one or more grounds.”


Young people are many times also perpetrators of discrimination. The SALTO Cultural Diversity Resource Centre report “Europe in Transition: Diversity, Identity and Youth Work” (2017) acknowledged an increase among Youth to engage in identity construction processes based on “asserting difference and of excluding others – rather than as acceptance of all-encompassing and shared characteristics.” Young people many times exhibit discriminatory attitudes and harrassment, and increasingly, young people are recurring to radicalisation that leads to violence. The authors identify the need for further reflection, practice and empirical evidence to promote diversity and intersectionality in Youth work, as well as “positive (non-exclusionary identities) at national and regional levels.


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