The working population all over Europe is changing. The most visible feature of this change lies perhaps in the feminisation of the workforce which has also profound effects on family patterns and societies. Moreover, the labour market is becoming increasingly multicultural, thereby challenging the integrative capacities of communities. The worker in industry, who was the stronghold for trade unions for a long time, is becoming rare, while the number of workers in services – many of them women and/or workers from a migrant or ethnic minority background, with part-time or fixed-term employment contracts and often in precarious jobs – are rapidly rising.
As the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, there is an urgent need to ensure recognition and non-discrimination in the workplace of all workers, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic origins, religion or disability. Labour market institutions and policies will have to adapt in order to guarantee a fair share in employment of all workers, as well as attention to workers’ specific needs.
Equal treatment – a powerful concept
With equal treatment being a powerful concept – embedded in the European treaties in various ways, notably through Article 141 promoting equal treatment between women and men and Article 13 combating discrimination, in the Employment Framework (2000/78/EC) and Racial Equality (2000/43/EC) Directives and in international labour standards, notably in Convention No. 111 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – its implementation demands a strong connection with social policies and positive actions to provide for the conditions that allow workers and citizens to enjoy equality of opportunities. To give further momentum to the fight against discrimination in the EU, the European Commission launched the European Year of equal opportunities for all in 2007. In light of this, ETUC strives for equal rights and opportunities for all, while respecting and valuing diversity.
ETUC believes that the fight for equality in Europe requires new legal and policy initiatives from the European Institutions and Member States as well as greater commitment to ensure equality in practice. For this reason we drafted a joint declaration with the Social Platform: "Joint declaration to the EU and Member States: Fight discrimination and guarantee equality for all " which was presented at the 3rd Equality Summit held by the Swedish Presidency in Stochkom on 16-17 November 2009.