ILO Spotlights Discrimination In The Workplace

By Agence France-Presse Discrimination in the workplace is still a common worldwide problem, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warned May 12. "While some of the more blatant forms of discrimination may have faded, many remain, and others have taken on new or less visible forms," the ILO said in a new report. The "Time for Equality at Work" study also warns that failing to tackle the problem could have disastrous social, political and economic effects. "This may be the most challenging task of contemporary society, and it is essential for social peace and democracy," it said. Although some progress has been made in fighting discrimination, with formal condemnation practically universal today, it has been uneven, the report said. "The report gives a mixed picture of concern and hope at the same time," ILO expert Manuela Tomei said. "The most striking finding is that discrimination at work is universal, is stubborn and is changing faces," she added. Women are by far the largest group facing discrimination at work. Women are faced with the so-called glass ceiling that keeps them out of many top jobs. Additionally, they face the problem of a "pay gap" with their male colleagues, which, according to the ILO, is "still significant" in most countries. The ILO also said discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS was "a growing concern, especially among women" and could include pre-employment testing leading to a refusal to hire. Other forms of unfair treatment included demotion, denial of health insurance benefits, salary cuts and harassment, according to the report. And discrimination based on religion has increased over the last decade, manifested by a lack of respect for religious or dress customs, obligation to work on religious holidays or bias in recruitment. It also highlighted discrimination based on age, disability and race. "There is no 'one size fits all' solution for achieving equality at work," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said. "The problem is different, country-by-country, group-by-group." Laws banning discrimination at work . . . are not enough, the report added. Effective enforcement, unbiased education, training and data to monitor progress also are needed. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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