Why Switzerland must undertake affirmative motion insurance policies

On Labor Day, which has traditionally been shaped by initiatives that deal with issues of workers’ rights, activist Jeff Makana argues that the law needs to be changed to allow truly fair access to the Swiss labor market.

This content was published on May 1, 2021 – 9:00 am

Jeff Makana

Jeff Makana is a Switzerland-based labor and disability rights activist who has worked with job placement programs nationwide, including charities, Caritas and Espace Mozaik. He is also a correspondent for the Homeless Entrepreneur platform, for which he visits Swiss cities to understand the challenges facing the homeless community.

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In Switzerland, people of color and other minorities encounter many obstacles to entering the labor market, as they and other minorities are disproportionately affected by administrative obstacles. Affirmative action is a policy that takes into account factors such as a person’s race, gender, religion or national origin in order to increase the chances for an underrepresented section of society. I believe that Switzerland must pursue such a policy in order to create a level playing field.

Representing traditionally disadvantaged groups in the workplace is important in order to end the inadvertent discrimination against colored people and minorities in the Alpine country.

Swiss labor law does not require that a diversity program be set up in the workplace, except for public sector employers such as the federal government or universities. However, a large number of Swiss-based companies in all industries (such as Novartis, Roche, Swisscom, Credit Suisse, AXA, PwC and Coutts) have adopted initiatives and policy programs for diversity and inclusion. Now is the time to go one step further.

Labor law and related precedents provide for an anti-discrimination policy in the workplace in relation to race, gender, religion, age, nationality and health. However, none of these measures or provisions guarantee positive action. Such a policy would help ensure compliance with the principles set out in Article 8 of the Swiss Constitutionexternal link are fully realized. Article 8 prohibits discrimination, enshrines equality between men and women and tries to eliminate “inequalities that affect people with disabilities”.

Another kind of racism

Symbolic racism can be found on the Swiss labor market and in Switzerland in general. It is a coherent belief system that a historically marginalized group like blacks or the homeless is no longer exposed to much prejudice or discrimination. They do not make progress in society because they are unwilling to work hard enough or because they are inordinately demanding. Such attitudes have largely replaced the “old-fashioned” racism towards colored people and the homeless, but can be just as harmful, especially when it comes to finding work and earning a living.

After research on “Afrophobia” in Switzerland by Dr. Noémi Michel external linkof the University of Neuchâtel: “The social taboo of the discussion about race (and then about racism) is based on the conviction that there is no racism on the territory of Europe. Therefore, racial discrimination cannot be combated without classifying activists as racist themselves in order to stimulate conversation. “

I have spoken to several people in Switzerland from different walks of life whose experiences underscore the fact that something more needs to be done to combat symbolic racism and discrimination in the labor market.

Mohammed Wa Baile is a Swiss Kenyan citizen who works as a librarian at the University of Bern and is committed to the community. He refers to the long struggle of Swiss women for equality as a precedent and as an example of what minorities experience in the struggle for equality. (Swiss women did not get the federal vote until 1971, and Switzerland is waiting for one of the last European countries to ratify the 1979 UN Convention, which protects the fundamental rights of women and establishes federal maternity leave.) But partly because of the Women’s struggle still continues, he says it has overshadowed the work that needs to be done to ensure a level playing field for other groups.

“The idea of ​​increasing the representation of people who have been discriminated against and excluded for generations in all areas of employment, education and culture is a positive way to eradicate inequality,” said Wa Baile, citing practices in the US and in the US, South Africa, and points out that women in Switzerland have so far been the main beneficiaries of positive action policies.

“At least women have struggled and are still fighting hard to educate society about sexism,” he says. “Now we need to include racism in the positive action discourse.”

Judging by skills

Emre Firat, a Swiss with Turkish roots, also supports the idea. Although he says he had no problems finding work because he was born and raised in Switzerland, he knows many people who have had problems because of their origins and “especially their representation for today’s society”. He now works in insurance marketing, but while working in an employment agency, Firat says that one of his clients specifically refused to accept applications from “foreigners,” which highlights the scope of the problem.

Aurélie Induni, a Swiss citizen, believes that “prejudice dictates a lot in the recruitment process” for jobs.

“Our pre-existing culture rules the job market,” she says. “Some aren’t even aware of their bias.”

Induni, who works in debt consolidation management, has been discriminated against in the job market because of her gender. Some companies told her they would “prefer to hire a man”. She has also seen someone denied a job because they were physically disabled after an accident. She believes that “blind” first-round interviews could be a measure to avoid judging people by their skin color or physical disability.

“People with color, people with disabilities, people with tattoos (yes, it happened to someone I know), women, people from the LGBTQ + community, people with certain religious beliefs – all of them can be the best at something but still rejected jobs because of these factors and not their skills, ”said Induni.

Mohammed Wa Baile sums it up best:

“We need to discuss how positive action works best in the Swiss context, where women, transsexuals, people with disabilities, the homeless, refugees, blacks and people of color can participate politically, socially, economically and culturally in order to help Switzerland to move forward globally. “

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