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Occupational representation and ethnic discrimination in Latvia

Pabriks, Artis
Since the beginning of European political thought, public life has been based on the principle that all human beings are equal before the law. In modern times this principle has been elaborated and confirmed in various international human rights instruments. The EU has recently paid special attention to issues relating to equal treatment and on 29 June 2000 passed directive 2000/43/EC (Race Directive) aimed at combating discrimination based on ethnic origin in the economic and social spheres. This study on ethnic parity in the labor market and the connection between occupational representation and ethnic discrimination is the first step towards implementation of the Race Directive in Latvia.

The main focus of this study is direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of ethnicity in Latvia. Given the multicultural and multiethnic nature of Latvia's society, the issue of ethnic discrimination is important in terms of both domestic and foreign policy. Discrimination results in economic disadvantage, fosters mutual distrust, and promotes feelings of insecurity and psychological tension, which can not only have harmful results at the individual level, but also seriously endanger a country's development and security. Moreover, the failure of a state to combat discrimination can lead to distrust of government by those who are targets of unequal treatment. Consequently, one might argue that discrimination on grounds of ethnicity is eventually harmful to state security.

This report is based on statistical data obtained from surveying Latvia's district and city local governments, ministries, several large state enterprises, institutions of higher learning, schools and nineteen private companies. Representatives of the aforementioned institutions responded to a questionnaire sent to them on the ethnic proportions of their employees, hiring procedures and employee relations. Interviews, additional analyses and quantitative surveys were also used.

Data on occupational proportionality do not suggest the existence of widespread discrimination on the basis of ethnicity in Latvia. Moreover, the welfare of the ethnic minorities (hereinafter, minorities) is comparable to that of the majority, which is not the case in societies where discrimination on grounds of ethnicity is frequently observed. However, there is an obvious lack of ethnic parity in certain institutions and sectors.

The main reasons for the lack of ethnic parity are weak involvement of ethnic minorities in the process of the state's renewal and the consequent lack of representation in newly created institutions, persistent poor knowledge of Latvian among minorities, lack of motivation to acquire citizenship, scepticism concerning the work of state institutions as a whole and low salaries of civil servants, patterns of ethnic self-segregation, especially among ethnic Latvians, but also among the minorities, a lack of open hiring procedures, a lack of education on ethnic discrimination and human rights in society, unbalanced and often incongruous information in the mass media and separate communication networks which operate in different languages. This study offers a number of policy recommendations to improve the existing situation.
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Contributor: Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS - http://www.providus.lv/public/index_en.html
Topic: Culture and Civil Society
Country: Latvia
Document Type: Social Analyses
Year: 2002
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