Data collection: What we need for equality and social inclusion in Europe

By Claire Fernandez, Policy Officer, European Network Against Racism

22 March 2013 - What I took away from ENAR’s events on the 7th and 8th of March on data collection in Europe is that data alone is not the magic solution to achieving equality and social inclusion in Europe. In fact, on the occasion of the launch of ENAR’s latest publication on racism(s) in Europe, participants reflected on this paradox and admitted: data are nothing but a tool – without them however, we can’t know if we are on the right path...

Despite already collecting data and acknowledging the need to measure progress, European Union Member States remain unable to overcome current obstacles to collect reliable and comparable equality data or to use them as a means by which to measure progress and the impact of equality policies from one year to the next.

Why do we need data?

There is a strong consensus now about the need for more data to support equality in Europe. First and foremost, data helps in assessing progress over time. The impact of European non-discrimination and social inclusion policies and projects – read: the money invested to implement them – must be monitored and evaluated. States’ commitments to the EU Equality Directives and the Europe 2020 strategy, to name but a few, are to be assessed in light of measurable indicators. Likewise, there is no way to design efficient public policies and smartly allocate resources to achieve equality and manage diversity without having a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Finally, disaggregated reliable data strengthen equality advocacy by debunking myths on ethnic minorities and migrants and providing statistics, which contribute to understanding causalities between policies/practices and communities most disadvantaged by these. This information is vital for anti-racist activists to support claims made by providing evidence-based reports and data.

How is data collected?

Initial reports and consultations led by ENAR suggest that data is collected in Europe by different means, including in those countries using a restrictive interpretation of data protection regulations, namely France, Germany and Hungary, just to name a few. For instance, in France – where data is not disaggregated by ethnicity – information on successive generations of migrants is collected, which gives some indication on the effectiveness or lack thereof of inclusion policies.

Population census is a common technique to collect data disaggregated by ethnicity and is used, for instance, in the UK. Censuses, however, are costly and not always accurate. Fear of the authorities partially explains why approximately 600,000 persons were identified as Roma in the 2002 Romanian census, while the Council of Europe estimates that almost 2 million Roma live in the country. Equality bodies, research institutes, private companies and public administrations also contribute to collecting disaggregated data on smaller target groups. International organisations – UNDP, World Bank – and European agencies, such as Eurofound, Eurostat and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), carry out their own surveys to collect primary datasets. The FRA, for instance, developed a Roma-specific survey, the EU-MIDIS survey to collect data on minorities and migrants in the 27 EU countries, and a survey on the experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism, hate-motivated crime and discrimination among self-identified Jewish people (aged 16 or over) in nine EU Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom), providing first time comparable data on this issue.

What else do we need?

While Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President, has made sure that data collection is “explicitly provided for” in “all the new legislation” she has “put on the table since Lisbon”, no clear evidence confirms that Member States follow the same path. Experts of ENAR’s recently-established steering group on equality data collection have identified multiple flaws in States’ data collection policies. The data collected is not always publically available and accessible. Different legal and political traditions also shape the way Member States interpret data protection regulations. In France and Greece, while it is not acceptable to collect data on minorities, grounds such as “migration paths” have become more acceptable. Furthermore, EU Member States lack the political will to prioritise data collection.

ENAR will continue working with civil society organisations, European institutions, equality bodies and Member States to move forward on equality data collection in Europe. In doing so, we will contribute to map existing initiatives as well as obstacles and to advocate for European States to get the tools necessary to build their equality and inclusion projects.

For more information on ENAR’s activities on equality data collection, or if you wish to send your comments/contribution, please contact Claire Fernandez: Claire@enar-eu.org.


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