New survey exposes extent of multiple discrimination in Greece

New survey exposes extent of multiple discrimination in Greece

We may not realize it, or want to admit it, but we live in a world where young men who are native to the country they live in rule the roost. All others – women, migrants, the elderly, LGBT, the disabled and anyone foreign or of a different religion to the majority – are less equal than them. And if an individual happens to tick more than one of those boxes, such as a migrant who is unemployed, above middle age and suffering from a chronic health problem, then their social status will be seriously compromised. Conservative Greece is still very much allergic to difference and diversity.

Now a new survey conducted by Greece’s National Center for Social Research (EKKE), published exclusively here in Kathimerini, has cast light on the issue of multiple discrimination.

“Multiple discrimination is a new concept that is hard to pin down and express, as the different grounds on which one is discriminated against are often hard to distinguish and assess. It is an issue that we will deal with more frequently in the coming decades,” says Dionysis Balourdos, director of research at EKKE, who coordinated the project.

What did the researchers find?

“Most incidents of multiple discrimination take place in the workplace, and they usually involve gender bias,” Balourdos says. In other words, gender is even more decisive than ethnic origin and sexual orientation when it comes to whether an individual will experience discrimination. “A woman is far more likely to be subjected to multiple discrimination than a man,” says Nikos Sarris, a lawyer and researcher at EKKE. It is no coincidence that a 2017 Ombudsman report on discrimination cited gender as the main basis for discrimination (40 percent of reports). Other pretexts mentioned in the report were disability or chronic illness (19 percent), marital status (12 percent), age (9 percent), national or ethnic origin (98 percent), race or color (5 percent). “Sixty-nine percent of Greeks believe that women are meant to take care of the home and the family,” Sarris says. Only 44 percent of European Union citizens hold the same view.

Serious problem

The EKKE report was based on quantitative and qualitative research, as well as field experiments. The quantitative study was based on a sample of 510 people, mostly belonging to vulnerable groups, as well as representatives of agencies. Researchers studied their questionnaire answers to examine discrimination on the basis of race/color, national/ethnic origin, religious belief, disability, gender, age, and sexual preference. According to the findings, 56.6 percent said that Greece faces a serious multiple discrimination problem. More specifically, 70.7 percent said they face discrimination at work. A smaller percentage complained of discrimination at public services (49.1 percent), in healthcare (47.4 percent), on public transport (42 percent), at courts (37.2 percent), with banking services (29.8 percent) and in recreational areas (24.7). Meanwhile, 26 percent said they have experienced multiple discrimination – 63 percent of them in the workplace and 27.6 percent in healthcare settings.

Respondents said that discrimination was also prompted by their financial (56 percent) and employment status (58.6 percent). Of the alleged victims of multiple discrimination, only 15.9 percent had reported the incident to the authorities. Of those who reported the incident, 61.9 percent said that no action was taken. Researchers said that 28.6 percent stated they had reported the incident to the police, 19 percent to an association, 14.3 percent to a nongovernmental organization and 9.5 percent had referred the issue to court. However, 83.7 percent of cases were not reported at all.

Asked why they had failed to report the incident, 55 percent said they believed they wouldn’t get justice, 23 percent said they would not be able to provide evidence of the incident in court, 18.7 percent said that the procedure was time-consuming and bureaucratic, and 18 percent said that they did not know where to turn. Furthermore, 7 percent said they were afraid to report the incident. Seventy-five percent said they were not aware of the legislation regarding multiple discrimination. An EU survey conducted in 2017 showed that 70 percent of the people who belong to vulnerable groups in Greece are not familiar with the Ombudsman and 84 percent have no knowledge of the Equal Treatment Committee and the Labor Inspection Squad, Sarris said.


Asked about the six discrimination triggers, respondents said that discrimination was most frequently based on ethnic origin (76.5 percent), followed by sexual orientation (70.5 percent), disability (58.1 percent), religious preference (54.1 percent), age (51.6 percent) and gender (49.9 percent). Each of these traits was found to interact with the others, as well as with socioeconomic background. Gender and age are said to play a significant role in triggering multiple discrimination.

The EKKE survey was part of the “Tackling Multiple Discrimination in Greece” program, which was selected for EU funding from among 600 proposals. The program was carried out with the participation of four partners: the Economic and Social Council (ESC), the Hellenic Open University (HOU), the Region of Crete’s Directorate of Social Care, and the University of Seville.

“Every partner carried out its own set of actions and lab experiments with the participation of organizations’ representatives and groups exposed to discrimination. Every time we were struck by the huge turnout; every lab was better than the previous one,” Balourdos says. The study, which was published in a volume titled “Tackling Multiple Discrimination in Greece,” was presented at an international conference at the Digital Policy Ministry on December 5.

The experiment

Scientists carried out 30 field experiments concerning entering the labor market – a first in Greece,” says Eleni Georgakakou, the research associate who led the experiments.

Thirty pairs of candidates were picked to respond to real job advertisements. Each pair had the same qualifications (same educational level, same years of experience, same language skills and so on), but one person in each was a member of at least two groups or social categories often subject to discrimination.

“Both candidates said the same things on the phone, in the same way, according to the same script that allowed them to gradually reveal their traits so that we could gauge the difference in the responses,” Georgakakou says.

“The Greek language helped us trace evidence of multiple discrimination as a single word – for example ‘ellinida’ (meaning ‘Greek woman’) – can be used to designate nationality as well as gender.

“An employer said he was looking for a young Greek woman, which amounts to discrimination on three level, involving gender, ethnic origin and age.

“The candidate that most employers appeared to be looking for was a Greek male aged up to 45.

“On the other hand, the least popular candidate was elderly, non-Greek and female.”

The researchers found discrimination in 57 percent of cases.

Meanwhile, in 43 percent of the cases the response was the same, in the sense that both candidates were turned down. Nevertheless, rejection was in both cases prompted by discrimination, although the grounds that triggered it were different.

Gender is the most common reason for discrimination, and in some cases it can work against men (reverse sexism), such as in jobs that are still viewed as “women’s work” (nurses, secretaries, cleaners).

In 11 out of 30 cases, researchers found instances of multiple discrimination.

‘There is no full legal protection’

The quantitative study was made up of 36 interviews carried out by EKKE research associate Despina Grigoriadou. All respondents were members of at least two groups or social categories often subject to discrimination. Experts found a connection between multiple discrimination, on the one hand, and poverty and unemployment on the other. New vulnerable groups were identified. Notably, in many cases, the respondents were not even aware they were victims of multiple discrimination. The groups that appeared to be most subject to discrimination were:

1. Women aged over 35-40. If they do manage to land a job, this is usually part-time, illegal, and with flexible working hours. A middle-aged migrant woman said in the report: “They asked how old I was. When I gave them my real age (57), they said I should be between 30 and 50 to get the job.”

2. Women with disabilities. A disabled middle-aged man was quoted as saying the following about this category: “They are unwanted by society. I know a large number of women who were abandoned by their husbands after they suffered a disability or that never found a job again.”

3. People of different nationalities with disabilities. They are discriminated against by their own ethnic group, society, employers and the state. An Albanian national said of his friend: “Trying to get a state license for a business was like trying to climb a mountain without feet.”

4. Muslim female migrants and Roma women are victims of discrimination both within their communities and in the wider community. They said that they regularly faced sexual harassment at work, while employers gave them lower pay than the agreed rate and provided no social insurance.

5. Young second-generation migrants suffer discrimination at school, at work and in interpersonal relations. “I just told a customer what I thought about something he was purchasing and he said: ‘Look who’s talking… We are not equal.’”

6. Non-Greek gay people. A homosexual man said: “For Greeks, your main identity is Albanian. For Albanians, you are something far worse, a gay Albanian.”

7. Transgender people. Serious incidents of discrimination at work, health facilities and social services. Sexual abuse in public areas, intense stress about “outing.” A transgender individual said: “In the workplace I present myself as a man, while in my social and private life I am a woman. This is very stressful. I need to disguise my identity every day, because I am scared about losing my job.”

“The EU has recognized the seriousness of multiple discrimination; however, many countries are still plagued by legal and institutional obstacles that make it difficult to tackle them. In Greece, Law 4443/2016, which replaced Law 3304/2005, provides a legal framework for tackling discrimination. On the basis of the new law, the Ombudsman applies the equal treatment principle in the public and private sectors.

“New grounds for discrimination have been introduced, such as chronic illnesses, origin, family or social status and gender identity,” Sarris says, adding that the notion of multiple discrimination has been introduced. “However, there is no full legal protection. The law does not specify the criteria according to which a judge must trace and identify the grounds of discrimination,” he says. Furthermore, Balourdos says, “There is not a single agency in Greece to collect all available data regarding cases of multiple discrimination.”

The EU has set up a working group to determine if jurisdictions can be brought together under a single agency. Balourdos believes that EKKE can have a say in all that, given its record in discrimination research.

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