Swedes keenest on ethnic minorities

Swedes are the quickest in the European Union to embrace the concept of the multi-cultural society. They are also among the least satisfied with efforts to combat discrimination, according to a new Eurobarometer survey.

In Sweden, 86% of those asked in the survey took the view that ethic minorities enrich the country’s culture. Fewer than 4 out of 10 respondents shared this opinion in Malta (32%) and Cyprus (39%).

“It is pleasing that so many people are positive towards ethnic diversity in society,” Sweden’s integration minister Nyamko Sabuni told The Local.

“The government’s aim is for Sweden to become even better at making use of that diversity. Everyone who wants to work should be get the opportunity to do so,” she said.

Yet in an apparent paradox, a mere 28 percent of those asked said that enough was being done to tackle discrimination in Swedish society – only Poles were less satisfied.

Sabuni said the government recognized that more needed to be done to combat discrimination, and pointed to measures that the government is taking.

“One part of this is to create clear, effective and cogent legislation against discrimination. It is important that damages in discrimination cases are really significant. We are also increasing the budget of the Ombudsman Against Ethnic Discrimination by 13 million kronor in 2007,” she said.

Eurobarometer asked people across the EU whether they thought discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race and religion was common in their own countries.

Some 63 percent of Swedes thought discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was widespread, the 5th highest figure in the EU. Italians were most likely to say that gay people are discriminated against, with 73 percent of respondents saying that this was common. The EU average was 50 percent.

Age discrimination is uncommon in Sweden, however, at least to judge from the opinions of those asked in the survey. Only 36 percent of Swedes thought that age discrimination was widespread in society, compared to 66 percent in Hungary and 46 percent in the EU as a whole.

Religious discrimination in famously secular Sweden was viewed as widespread by 56 percent of those surveyed. This contrasts with France, where 63 percent of those asked thought discrimination on the basis of religion or beliefs was common, and with Latvia, where only ten percent believed this to be the case.

Some 54 percent of those asked thought the wearing of religious symbols in the workplace was acceptable, contrasting with 79 percent in Malta.

With Sweden usually seen as a leading feminist nation, gender equality might be expected to be a given, but in fact 50 percent of those asked thought that gender discrimination was widespread, a figure lower only than those of Italy and Spain.