07 April 2010 #Employment
Observers argue that caste based discrimination is a serious problem facing Asian communities in the UK. A report published by the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance found that more than half of those from traditionally lower-status Asian backgrounds have found themselves victims of prejudice and abuse. Nine per cent of respondents felt that they had been passed over for promotion and ten per cent said that they had been paid less because of their caste. A further five per cent said they had experienced threatening behaviour because of their caste.
The concept of "caste" is primarily associated with cultures of the Indian sub-continent. The caste system enforces a social hierarchy, in which social classes are defined by hereditary groups. Caste is determined by birth and cannot be changed. Campaigners argue that members of the lower caste, referred to as the "untouchables", suffer unfair treatment at the hands of higher caste members, even in second generation Asian communities in the UK.
Provision has now been added to the Equality Bill, giving the Government power to amend the definition of "race" to include "caste" in its anti-discrimination provisions. It is uncertain whether this provision will survive the final passage of the Bill through the House of Commons, as there is a reluctance to legislate on the issue of caste discrimination without more detailed research being undertaken.
If protection from caste discrimination in employment becomes a legal right in the UK, employers will have to provide the necessary training and guidance to managers and other employees on a subject about which many will know very little.