Photo: Anti-Migrant and Minority Sentiment Continues
Migrant workers and minorities are among groups that continue to face discrimination in the labour market as a result of the global economic crisis, despite positive advances in anti-discrimination laws, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a report unveiled today.
“Economically adverse times are a breeding ground for discrimination at work and in society more broadly. We see this with the rise of populist solutions,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia at the release of Global Report on Equality at Work 2011: The Continuing Challenge.
The report warns against a tendency during economic downturns to give lower priority to anti-discrimination policies and workers’ rights in practice.
“Austerity measures and cutbacks in the budget of labour administrations and inspection services, and in funds available to specialized bodies dealing with non-discrimination and equality, can seriously compromise the ability of existing institutions to prevent the economic crisis from generating more discrimination and more inequalities,” the report points out.
The report notes that there has been significant progress in advancing gender equality in the workplace, but the gender pay gap remains, with women’s wages on average 70 to 90 per cent of men’s earnings.
While flexible arrangements of working schedules are gradually being introduced as an element of more family-friendly policies, discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity is still common, according to the report.
It also highlights sexual harassment as a significant problem in workplaces, with young, financially dependent, single or divorced women, and migrants the most vulnerable. Men who experience harassment tend to be young, gay or members of ethnic or racial minorities.
Barriers impeding equal access to the labour market still need to be dismantled, particularly for people of African and Asian descent, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, and above all, women in those groups.
The report recommends a series of steps to combat discrimination, including: promoting the universal ratification and application of the two fundamental ILO Conventions on equality and non-discrimination; developing and sharing knowledge on the elimination of discrimination in employment; developing the institutional capacity of ILO constituents to more effectively implement the fundamental right of non-discrimination at work; and strengthening international partnerships with major actors on equality.