The City of Ghent applies an updated non-discrimination clause in its public procurement contracts and monitors the effect of this clause.

The City of Ghent has applied a non-discrimination clause in its public procurement contracts since 2010. To monitor the effect of this clause, Ghent University has conducted a study of the contractors, on behalf of the City. The study shows that there is unequal treatment among some companies that work for the City of Ghent. A new approach is intended to respond to these findings: the City of Ghent is applying an updated non-discrimination clause, now with monitoring, and will support companies in their attempts to apply an equal opportunities policy.

In 2010, the City of Ghent was the first local government body to decide to introduce a non-discrimination clause for all its procurement contracts. A non-discrimination clause is added to all specifications for companies working on contract for the City of Ghent. In this way, contractors are bound to respect a number of basic principles of non-discrimination.

Discrimination discovered

Between December 2015 and August 2016, a research team from Ghent University, led by Professor Stijn Baert, was commissioned by the City of Ghent to study the effectiveness of the non-discrimination clause.

The researchers from the Department of Social Economics discovered by means of practical tests that people of foreign origin have 30% less chance of being invited for a job interview. Young people of foreign origin without work experience have as much as 50% less chance of being invited for a job interview. Both men and women with foreign names were found to have fewer opportunities (with hardly any difference between the genders). Unequal treatment of people with a disability was also identified, but this difference was statistically weak.

New approach

Public procurement contracts have a major impact on the labour market. The City of Ghent issues public contracts worth around 100 million euros each year. These are fulfilled by some 4000 companies. Taking the findings of the Ghent University study into consideration, the city has been looking for a way to fight discrimination through improved monitoring and coaching of the companies that work for the City.

From autumn 2017 onwards, the City of Ghent will apply a new, more explicit non-discrimination clause in its specifications for procurement contracts. The new clause is intended to make monitoring and enforcement possible.

For larger public procurement contracts over longer periods of time, the contractor will have to show stronger commitment. Before the contract is awarded, potential contractors will have to fill in a questionnaire. This self-evaluation is a tool developed by the City of Ghent in partnership with Unia, which will be used to find out about the company’s non-discrimination policy.

Companies whose questionnaires show that they do not meet the legal requirements will be asked to draw up an equal opportunities action plan after the contract has been awarded. In this way, the City of Ghent will offer them the support they need to rectify the situation, avoiding the need for an enforcement policy.

Ghent is once again a pioneer of equal opportunities

The new approach to non-discrimination for public procurement contracts is part of the City of Ghent’s anti-discrimination plan, initiated in 2015. The ambitious plan contains 58 measures for more equal opportunities and goes further than merely raising awareness and providing information. Ghent is the first city in Europe to make such concerted efforts to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities on the labour market through the awarding of public procurement contracts. On the basis of the experience it gains, the city intends to develop a set of good practices for other cities.

In the second half of 2017 and in 2018, the City of Ghent will test the method described above at a limited number of companies. After evaluation, the method and the way it is put into practice will be further refined. Employers’ organisations will be invited to help fine-tune the method.

On Tuesday 30 May 2017, the city will be holding a study day with detailed explanations of the study conducted by Ghent University, and the City of Ghent’s response in the form of a decision to coach and monitor companies in terms of non-discrimination and equal opportunities through public procurement contracts.

Contact details
Luc Vanden Berge, Department of Welfare and Equal Opportunities, mobile: 0476 98 70 59, e-mail: Luc.VandenBerge@stad.gent