In the labour market in Belgium, people of African origin are most often disadvantaged, as they are more often inactive and often earn less, according to a report by the equal opportunities centre Unia.
The report, published on the international day against racism on Monday 21 March, shows that the employment rate in 2016 in Belgium was highest among people of Belgian origin (73.7%) and lowest among people of Sub-Saharan origin (45.8%), after people from the Near and Middle East.
"What is striking from our research is that the darker your skin colour, the more you have to deal with discrimination and racism," director at Unia Els Keytsman told VRT. While she stressed that discrimination in the housing market is "a very big pain point" in Belgium, she added that the issue usually already starts in school.
"It is often unconscious, but that also shows the difficulty and the structural nature of the problem, which is why children of African origin end up in the so-called waterfall system a little more often than others and cannot study what they would like to study. "
Translation: "People of African origin are especially discriminated against in the workplace, in housing and in education. From affirmative action and data mining to decolonisation: discover our recommendations."
Generally speaking, the employment rate rises when the level of the degree increases, but this is not the case for people of foreign origin. "This is particularly striking for people of Sub-Saharan origin: the difference in employment rate between the group with at most a lower secondary education (short schooling) and the group with a higher education diploma (bachelor, master or doctor) is small," reports Unia.
The small difference among people of Sub-Saharan origin can be explained by the low employment rate of the higher educated group of people. The employment rate of the group of people with a short schooling is comparable to that of other groups of non-European origin.
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The employment rate for people of Sub-Saharan origin with a higher education degree (59.7%) is only slightly higher than that of Belgians with at most a lower secondary education degree (55%). "If we compare the long-term and short-term educated of the same origin, we see that studying longer seems to pay off less for people of Sub-Saharan origin," Unia concludes.
There is also an impact in terms of salary: people from Sub-Saharan Africa with a higher education diploma more often have a lower salary than people from other origins with the same diploma and similar studies.
Importantly, their salary is always three deciles lower than that of their colleagues of Belgian origin, reports Unia. "Long-term educated people of sub-Saharan origin are more likely to be in the lower pay brackets than those of other origins. Therefore, they earn less for the same level of education and field of study."
Unia advocates positive action to counter racism in society, such as more so-called "practical tests" to determine racism. "With mystery calls, it is possible to check in an objective, well-founded way whether racism or discrimination occurs," said Keytsman.
"We are therefore pleased that the legislator has made the rules for such mystery calls simpler," she added.
Unia also wants to go one step further and advocates a national plan against racism. "So many years after the great world conference against racism in Durban in 2001, it is high time that our country – which was also at that conference – works on a national action plan against racism."
"We hope that there will be a comprehensive plan as soon as possible, as well as the necessary budgets to combat racism," Keytsman stressed.