10 Worst Countries for Racial Equality
Reflecting how much countries’ values have changed in the past year, the 2021 Best Countries report introduces a new ranking: the best countries for racial equality. The ranking was developed using the racial equity score a country received and connecting it to the more than 17,000 survey respondents who agreed moderately or strongly to the statement that “A country is stronger when It is more racially and ethnically diverse.”
The Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand are seen as the three best countries for racial equality, respectively. But the United States finished among the bottom 10 in the ranking. In November 2020 the FBI announced that hate crimes in the country had risen to their highest level in more than a decade.
Here are the bottom 10 countries for racial equality, ranked by perception, of the 78 countries ranked in the 2021 Best Countries report.
No. 69: United States
The deadly Atlanta spa shootings and attack on an Asian American woman in New York City in March 2021 were only the most recent high-profile attack involving ethnic minorities in the United States. The deaths of Black Americans Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020 — all at the hands of white police officers — has triggered ongoing protests in the country and similar demonstrations around the world calling out racial injustice.
A poll released in October 2020 by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed Americans are about evenly split over whether the increased focus on race and racial inequality will lead to major policy changes that address racial inequities. That same study showed a far greater proportion of Black respondents said they have been paying more attention to issues of race and racial inequality than white respondents.
No. 70: Ukraine
In its World Report 2021, Human Rights Watch notes that far-right organizations and individuals have carried out hate attacks against ethnic minorities and LGBT people across Ukraine, with authorities frequently not investigating possible hate crimes.
Amnesty International notes that groups calling for discrimination against marginalized minorities have continued to carry out intimidation and attacks, but also states that police have protected an increasing number of public assemblies.
No. 71: Israel
In 2018 the Israeli parliament passed a Basic Law — a forerunner to a Constitution — that characterizes the country as principally a “nation state of the Jewish people” and Hebrew as the nation’s official language. The law also attributes special status to the Arabic language. A U.N. report notes that the law has stirred international concern, with many Arabs and Palestinians seeing it as a provocation.
Sixty-six percent of Israeli respondents to the 2021 Best Countries report agreed with the statement, “A country is stronger when It is more racially and ethnically diverse,” a lower proportion than the 75% globally who agreed with the statement.
No. 72: Myanmar
A diverse country with more than 100 recognized ethnic groups, Myanmar has suffered from ethnic violence throughout its history, worsening in 2017 when the military led a crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya population, a continuing action that the international community has labeled genocide. As the International Crisis Group notes, ethnicity and discrimination have been codified into the the country’s laws to favor the ethnic majority Burmese.
Conflict between the country’s military and dozens of ethnic armed organizations and militia groups will likely intensify since the military staged a coup in February 2021 against the civilian government, declaring a state of emergency and placing civilian leaders such as Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
No. 73: Slovakia
Slovakia‘s Constitution and multiple international laws the country has signed guarantee human rights for all citizens. However, both the U.S. State Department and the European Roma Rights Centre have noted the Romani people face discrimination in education, employment and housing. The U.S. also notes violence and threats of violence against the country’s Roma and other ethnic and racial minorities.
No. 74: United Arab Emirates
Human rights organizations have for years charged the UAE government with violating a number of human rights, including against women, foreign visitors and migrant workers — the latter comprising nearly 90% of the country’s population.
Federal labor law does not cover domestic workers, most of whom come from South Asia and the Philippines.
No. 75: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka‘s constitution guarantees human rights for all of its citizens. However, the country’s record on rights has received international criticism from the U.S. and various international rights groups.
A decadeslong war that lasted until 2009 has left remaining tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil, Muslim and indigenous minority populations. As recently as December 2020, critics accused the country’s government and media for profiling the Muslim community for being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
No. 76: Saudi Arabia
Racial discrimination is illegal in Saudi Arabia, but a U.S. State Department report has alleged cases of discrimination against national, racial and ethnic minorities, including that country’s large number of migrant workers, who are given few legal protections. That same U.S. government report also notes a tolerance campaign by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue that is seeking to address some of these problems.
Discrimination issues are part of a larger concern over human rights in Saudia Arabia, a topic that has drawn international comdemnation. Freedom House consistently ranks the kingdom at the bottom globally for ensuring political rights and civil liberties.
No. 77: Serbia
Serbia is among the European countries with the largest numbers of registered ethnic minorities. The U.N. has noted the forced eviction of Roma from informal settlements and the segregation of Roman children in schools.
The number of asylum seekers arriving in the country has decreased, but Human Rights Watch cites flaws in Serbia’s asylum process compared to other European countries.
No. 78: Qatar
Qatar is ranked at the bottom of the 2021 Best Countries ranking for racial equality.
Like other Middle Eastern countries listed here, Qatar’s living and working condition for migrant workers, who amount to nearly 90% of the country’s population, has received heavy international criticism in recent years for being abusive and even deadly. The Guardian reported this year that more than 6,500 migrant workers have died building facilities for the 2022 World Cup since Qatar won the rights to stage the competition. The country has reformed its working visa and minimum wage laws after pressure from rights groups.
These Are the 10 Worst Countries for Racial Equality
78. Qatar77. Serbia
76. Saudi Arabia
75. Sri Lanka
74. United Arab Emirates
69. United States
Want to Know More?
The 2021 Best Countries rankings, formed in partnership with BAV Group, a unit of global marketing communications company VMLY&R, and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, are based on a study that surveyed more than 17,000 global citizens from four regions to assess perceptions of 78 countries on 76 different metrics.
More from U.S. News