Despite deepening inequalities of young people in relation to the right to education, high levels of unemployment, the wait for a first quality job and precarious forms of work, access to affordable housing, and mental health services, equal treatment legislation in the EU does not tend to define the ground of age or young people. International legal and policy frameworks, similarly, do not address the specific needs of young people, but rather consider them within wider human rights and anti-discrimination measures.
More so, EU equality law, obliging Member States to set up equality bodies to assist victims of discrimination, and promote equality, does so only in relation to grounds of gender and race or ethnic origin. In practice, the majority of equality bodies cover age discrimination, even if many report difficulties to prioritise these issues due to a lack of resources.
In the EU legislation, aged-based discrimination in particular is only addressed within the area of employment and vocational training, leaving young people exposed to discrimination and inequality in such crucial public spheres as education, provision of goods & services, including housing, social protection & healthcare, as well as social advantages. A solution to filling these legislative gaps, also through the long-halted EU Equal Treatment Directive (Horizontal Directive), is yet to be reached by EU policy-makers.
The particular difficulty of identifying and tackling age-based discrimination is often related to its deep rootedness in society, especially in reference to young people. At the same time, structural and institutional barriers hinder young people’s full participation in society and equal access to existing opportunities. The European Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the Youth Guarantee are some of the EU policies to remedy existing structural inequalities.
Within this context, and in the absence of strong and clear standards, equality bodies report low levels of casework on the age ground in general and, within this casework, very few cases in relation to young people. Range of work in supporting good practice for young people is also reportedly low. In general, issues of discrimination against and inequality of young people tend to have a medium to low focus for a majority of equality bodies, often due to limitations in their mandate, under-reporting and lack of casework, and limited data. This is coupled with a low level of awareness among young people regarding their rights, existing protective mechanisms, including equality bodies, which further diminishes the effectiveness of anti-discrimination and pro-equality work.
The strong acknowledgement of close(r) cooperation among equality bodies and young people and their organizations is shared between equality bodies and young people’s organizations, represented by Equinet and the European Youth Forum. Given this shared interest, and the challenges young people face specifically due to their age, there is still strong need for Equinet member equality bodies to build their capacity in the area and in cooperation with youth organisations for combating age-based discrimination, as well as intersectional discrimination against young people.
The overall objectives of the seminar were to build capacity of national equality bodies and youth organisations to address inequality of and age discrimination against young people and to discuss ways to strengthen the cooperation of equality bodies with youth organisations.
In particular, the Seminar aimed to:
Kirsi Pimiä, Equinet Board Member (Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombuds)
Sebastiaan Rood, Board Member, European Youth Forum
Miha Lobnik, Slovenian Advocate of the Principle of Equality
The summary and accessible version of the Perspective can be found here.
While in Ljubljana for the Seminar, Equinet Board Member, Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombuds Kirsi Pimiä, spoke to the local press to explain the importance of tackling age discrimination against young people, standards for equality bodies and what those standards imply for the Slovenian Advocate of the Principle of Equality. The text of the interview (in Slovenian) is available here.
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