Time for equality at work. Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Report of the Director-General, 2003

The ILO’s most comprehensive study to date on discrimination, this timely report argues that the benefits of eliminating discrimination in the workplace transcend the individual and extend to the economy and to society as a whole. While the most blatant forms of discrimination at work have faded, the report reveals that many remain a persistent and daily part of the workplace or are taking on new, more subtle forms that are cause for growing concern


The report retraces the growth of the awareness of discrimination in employment and occupation as intolerable and reviews some of the major international milestones since the Second World War. The face of discrimination is changing and the report looks at some of the stereotypes and prejudices that exist on the basis of race, religion, age and those living with HIV/AIDS and disabilities. Women, however, continue to be the largest discriminated group and the report examines gender disparities in labour force participation rates, unemployment rates, remuneration and the jobs performed by most women and most men. The report shows that many of those who suffer from discrimination – especially on the basis of sex or color – face a persistent “equality gap” that divides them from dominant groups who enjoy a better life, or even from their own peers who have benefited from anti-discrimination laws and policies.

While progress has been made, outlawing discrimination at work has failed to eliminate the practice altogether and the report outlines an ILO plan of action for addressing discrimination at work. Effective enforcement institutions, positive action, unbiased education, training and employment services, and data to monitor progress are also necessary and the report stresses that this mix of policies and instruments is essential whatever the form of discrimination. Discrimination is still a common problem in the workplace and this report demonstrates how the failure to eradicate discrimination perpetuates poverty and injustice around the world.