Understanding and managing data, and specifically equality data, are essential to be able to evaluate the situation of ethnic minorities and other racialised groups, such as the Roma people, with the aim of fighting against racism and systemic inequalities.
Few EU countries count with adequate systems to uncover inequalities based on racial or ethnic origin, through collecting and using equality data. Taking this into consideration, the EU High Level Group on Non-Discrimination, Equality and Diversity, from European Commission Directorate-General Justice and Consumers, set up in 2018 a Subgroup on Equality Data, with the aim to support Member States to improve the collection and use of equality data. This Subgroup would be supported by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights to facilitate its work.
In 2020, the Subgroup’s mandate was extended to 2025, to support the European Commission’s efforts to implement a consistent approach on equality data collection, as regards data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin. To meet this goal, the Subgroup agreed to develop this practical guidance to Member States on improving the collection of data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin.
This guide is of interest of all bodies somehow related to the collection and use of data on racial or ethnic origin since it aims to:
- identify challenges to collecting data on racial or ethnic origin;
- highlight promising paths towards a more standardised and consistent approach to this;
- provide practical guidance on effective ways to produce comprehensive, reliable, comparable and regular data at national level;
- help public sector institutions and other relevant stakeholders to identify disparities based on ethnic or racial origin and effectively combat racism and structural discrimination.
“EU Member States are encouraged to use these guidelines to inform their development and effective implementation of anti-racism and non-discrimination policies and monitor their outcomes from an equality perspective”, since it considers national legal contexts and the different requirements for equality data collection in each Member State.
A series of guiding principles for collecting equality data on racial or ethnic origin are stated. For every of these principles, it can be found a rationale to frame the principle, guidance to develop the principle and examples of national practices in EU Member States. The guiding principles proposed are:
- Map existing data sources that provide information on racial or ethnic origin (including the categories applied and their underlying definitions)
A comprehensive mapping of all available data related to “racial or ethnic origin” is considered to be essential and would help to set up a baseline for a more systematic approach and provide a solid basis for necessary improvements.
- Carry out a needs assessment of (potential) users of data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin
This needs assessment should serve to identify the type of equality data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin required for evidence-based policymaking and for the monitoring of equality and human rights progression and regression.
- Align definitions, classifications and categorisations related to racial or ethnic origin and mainstream data on racial or ethnic origin into EU and national surveys
Given the complexity and variety of possible terms and proxy variables to be used, the aim is to achieve harmonised data. A uniform approach would maximise the comparability, validity and reliability of the data collected, as well as minimise costs for data collection.
- Collect and use equality data in full compliance with EU General Data Protection Regulation and national data protection rules
As stipulated in the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-25 “a prerequisite for progress towards a common dataset is full respect for constitutional norms, EU data protection law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”.
- (How to) Collect information on self-identification based on ‘racial or ethnic origin’
The parameters of the population of interest cannot be imposed by an external party or assigned through imputation or proxy, on the contrary, the populations should be self-defining.
- Using proxy information when collecting data on racial or ethnic origin (when self-identification is not possible)
In the absence of proper sampling frames, using proxy information is often the only way to survey ethnic or racialised minorities.
- Collecting data on experience of discrimination based on ethnic/racial origin in key areas of life.
It is unfortunately common that a large part of victims of discrimination tend not to report incidents they experience to any authority or body for a number of reasons.
This “attrition” of actual cases of discrimination stands as a considerable challenge to providing a reliable picture about the extent of racial/ethnic discrimination, since only a small part of actual discrimination is in fact visible. Therefore, objective, reliable and comparable data documenting experiences of inequality and discrimination are an essential tool for evidence-based policymaking.
- Provide sufficient budget for regular surveys collecting equality data on racial/ethnic origin, particularly when administrative data collection is not possible
Governments need to ensure that equality data is collected regularly, to monitor compliance with obligations under EU law, even when administrative data collection is not possible.
Finally, a series of specific ethical considerations to conduct the data collecting are offered in the document.