The Widespread Problem of Discrimination

Discrimination: definition and numbers

According to the ILO, discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job. All workers and job seekers have the right to be treated equally, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to do the job. Discrimination may occur before hiring, on the job or upon leaving. Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right. It is essential for workers to be able to choose their employment freely, to develop their potential to the full and to be rewarded based on merit. 

The ILO has two conventions considering discrimination. The Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). Convention 111 identifies as bases of discrimination race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin. Other ILO instruments list additional grounds: HIV/AIDS, age, disability, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, and trade union membership or activities. Convention 100 promotes the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. This refers to remuneration (ordinary, basic or minimum wage or salary by the employer to the worker and arising out of the worker’s employment) established without discrimination based on gender.

Around the world, finding a job is much tougher for women than it is for men. The current global labour force participation rate (being employed or actively looking for employment) for women is just under 47%, for men it is 72%. On top of that, when women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs in vulnerable conditions, and there is little improvement forecast in the near future. 

A recent example of discrimination of women in the world of work is the situation in Afghanistan where, due to the Taliban takeover on August 15th 2021, women can’t work outside of their homes, are robbed of their right to political participation and can can only travel for 78 kilometres without a male chaperone. Inequality between men and women is a widespread problem. For data behind trends and more information about barriers holding women back from decent work, the ILO made an InfoStory to make it all more comprehensible.

We can conclude from this that discrimination is still a widespread problem which calls for action. Therefore, the ILO has several guides to support equality. For instance, you can read the easy-to-read version of "An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities" report, the learning guide for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) persons in the world of work, or the guide for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work in fragile, conflict and disaster settings. Last but not least, our database is a great resource to check if companies support equality in their (supplier) code of conduct.


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