A report from the International Labour Office (ILO) says there are still mounting inequalities in income and opportunities and significant and persistent forms of workplace discrimination.
Although the report, Equality at work: Tackling the challenges acknowledges there have been major advances in fighting discrimination at work, it also says there have been failures.
The report covers traditional forms of discrimination such as sex, race or religion together with newer forms based on age, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status and disability.
A major theme of the report is the persistence of gender gaps in employment and pay and the need for integrated policies addressing sex discrimination in remuneration and occupational segregation by sex, while reconciling work and family responsibilities.
For example, the report states that throughout the EU, the difference in average gross hourly earnings between women and men across the economy throughout all establishments has remained at 15 per cent.
Female labour force participation rates continued to rise significantly, currently at 56.6 per cent, thus narrowing the worldwide gender gap in labour participation rates.
A key measure of improvement is the availability of good-quality jobs for women in legislative, senior official or managerial positions with higher participation rates indicating a reduction of discriminatory barriers.
Women still represent a distinct minority in such positions throughout the world, holding only 28.3 per cent of these senior jobs. There is uneven progress across the regions with North America at 41.2 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean at 35 per cent and the European Union at 30.6 per cent. This indicator has seen the most growth in South Asia, where it has nearly doubled in nine years, however women in this region still hold the lowest share of these jobs at 8.6 per cent.
Noting that the efforts by ILO member states to stamp out workplace discrimination have moved forward significantly, the report says: “The condemnation of discrimination in employment and occupation is today almost universal, as is the political commitment to tackle it.”
It adds that the need to combat discrimination at work is more urgent than it was four years ago “in the face of a world that appears increasingly unequal, insecure and unsafe”.
A recent development is the emergence of practices that penalize persons with “a genetic predisposition to developing certain diseases or those who have lifestyles considered unhealthy”.
The rapid developments in genetics and related new technologies have made it easier to obtain information on genetic status. The report states that genetic screening has important implications for the workplace, where, for example, employers might discriminate against employees whose genetic status shows a predisposition to developing a certain disease in the future.
Genetic discrimination at the workplace has been proven and successfully contested in several courts around the world.