ILO and gender equality

ILO vision of equality between women and men

The ILO’s goal is to promote equal opportunities for women and men to obtain Decent Work. This is fairly paid productive work carried out in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. ILO considers gender equality a critical element in efforts to achieve its four strategic objectives:

ILO mandate on gender equality

The ILO's mandate to promote gender equality in the world of work is enshrined in its Constitution and reflected in relevant international labour standards. The four key ILO gender equality Conventions are the Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100), Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. 111), Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (No. 156) and Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183). Conventions 100 and 111 are also among the eight fundamental Conventions of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The ILO mandate on gender equality is reinforced by related Resolutions adopted by its highest decision-making body, the International Labour Conference. The most recent of these is the Resolution concerning Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work, adopted in June 2009; and the Resolution concerning the Promotion of Gender Equality, Pay Equity and Maternity Protection, adopted in June 2004. Attention to gender equality in all aspects of the ILO’s technical cooperation is mandated by the Governing Body’s March 2005 Decision on Gender Mainstreaming in Technical Cooperation.

The ILO’s gender equality mandate is also set in the context of an array of international instruments advancing equality between women and men. Amongst others, these include the UN Charter itself, numerous resolutions of the General Assembly, the 1997 UN Economic and Social Council’s Agreed Conclusions on gender mainstreaming, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and its follow-up, and the Millennium Development Goals.

ILO policy and strategy on gender equality and mainstreaming

The ILO’s policy on equality between women and men, expressed in the Director-General’s Circular no. 564 (1999), calls for mutually reinforcing action to promote gender equality in staffing, substance and structure. This is achieved by mainstreaming gender equality into all aspects of ILO work. The Bureau for Gender Equality provides office-wide support to this process. The promotion of gender equality is reflected in the ILO programme and budgets for which the entire organization shares responsibility. The overall strategy is to intensify the mainstreaming of gender equality into all ILO programmes, including Decent Work Country Programmes and national poverty reduction policies and strategies. The ILO supports constituents in this process through the collaboration of its gender specialists and gender focal points.

The ILO approach to gender mainstreaming is two-pronged and based on analysis that considers the specific and often different needs and interests of women and men in the world of work. On the one hand, awareness of these different needs and interests is integrated into all policies, programmes, projects and institutional structures and procedures. On the other hand, especially where inequalities are extreme or deeply entrenched, they are addressed through gender-specific measures involving women and men, either separately or together or through measures designed explicitly to overcome inequalities. Mainstreaming can include gender-specific actions where necessary.

The organization has developed a single, overarching Action Plan for Gender Equality 2010-15, which operationalizes the 1999 ILO policy on gender equality. The Action Plan also facilitates effective and gender responsive delivery of the Decent Work Agenda, in line with the June 2009 Resolution concerning Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work. All five ILO Regional Offices and the subregional and country offices have developed their own gender policies and strategies adapted to regional and national contexts. This is to more effectively promote gender equality in respective programmes, particularly in Decent Work Country Programmes.

An integrated approach to gender equality and decent work

The Decent Work Agenda is cross-sectoral in nature and therefore implemented effectively through integrated and coordinated policy and institutional interventions. This covers different strategic objectives, such as promotion of fundamental rights, employment creation, social protection, and social dialogue. An integrated approach to gender equality and decent work form part of this approach. This means, for instance, enhancing equal employment opportunities through measures that also aim to improve women’s access to education, skills training and healthcare, while taking women’s role in the care economy adequately into account, for instance through work–family balance measures and providing workplace-level incentives for the provision of childcare and parental leave.