Jensen, Tina Gudrun, Mette Kirstine Tørslev, Kathrine Vitus, and Kristina Weibel. The Geography of (Anti-) Racism and Tolerance: Local Policy Responses, Discrimination and Employment in Denmark. Working paper produced within the TOLERANCE project, 2011, pp. 57–110,
Summary of part 1:
Although ethnic minorities’ participation in the Danish labour market has increased over the last years, a strong focus rests on particularly young ethnic minority men, who tend to drop out of school and have lower labour market participation. Danish research reveals different barriers to the labour market for ethnic minority youth; e.g. lack of language skills; lack of knowledge about the labour market; professionals ́ clientelisation focusing on problems rather than on skills, discrimination and expectances of discrimination.
In 2010 the Ministry of Integration launched a new ‘Action plan on ethnic equal treatment and respect for the individual’ focusing on information disseminating campaigns and monitoring of discrimination. The municipality of Copenhagen aims at counteracting discrimination and improve equal opportunities among citizens, focusing on three areas: documentation, information and handling of cases of discrimination. Authorities distinguish between objective/factual discrimination and subjective/experienced, but they remain reluctant to acknowledge subjective discrimination referring to it as a matter of feelings.
The young ethnic minority men in this case study tell about job-seeking and being confronted with stereotypes of ethnic minority men as violent, criminal and dangerous, and they experience a need to perform better than everybody else in order to get a job or get accepted. Thus, they indicate experiences of what can be labelled ‘Everyday racism’ that connects structural forces of racism with routine situations in everyday life. While the social street workers also see discrimination and racism as a barrier to 58employment, they view the young men’s social marginalization and lacking knowledge about cultural and social codes on the labour market as the main barrier. Not knowing basic written and unwritten rules at the workplace is, according to the social street workers, a common cause of conflicts and misunderstandings, and the youth tend to be ‘over sensitive.’ The professionals thus recognize that structural discrimination exists, but they seem to perceive discrimination as potential self-inflicted. This ambiguity reflects the general caution with defining and recognizing problems as related to discrimination. Thus, diverse perceptions and understandings exists and a continuously discursive struggle goes on: are ethnic minorities objectively discriminated against at the labour market, or do their difficulties in finding and keeping a job rest on self-inflicted reasons like their attitude/behaviour or lack of education and relevant networks? In these struggles it becomes a matter of arguing for the authenticity of one’s own subjective experiences and accounts of race relations, while de-legitimizing the truthfulness of other discourses