ILO Policy and Instruments

CIRCULAR NO. 564 Gender equality and mainstreaming in the ILO (PDF , 103 Kb)

Gender equality has always been at the heart of the ILO Mandate among social justice and the well-being of working people. Even in 1919, right after the First World War, the protection of women and the principle of equal remuneration of work of equal value were highlighted in the ILO Constitution as areas calling for immediate actions. Then the ILO Declaration of Philadelphia of 1944 proclaimed that "all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity".

Since that time the approaches have changed considerably, in response to the newly evolving roles of women and men on the labour market and in society in general. The ILO has not only reacted to those changes but has also taken a leading role in shaping a more equal future for men and women in the world of work. The adoption of a number of equality Conventions such as No 100 on Equal Remuneration, No 111 on Non-Discrimination in Employment and Occupation, No 156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities and No 183 on Maternity Protection were important milestones in developing the basic equality standards for men and women (see more in ILO Conventions). The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up (1998) once again confirmed the principle of elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation as being one of the most important rights at work, that should be respected, implemented and promoted in all ILO member-states.

A number of policy statements on gender equality and gender mainstreaming, made by Mr Juan Somavia, ILO Director General, in 1999-2000, clearly spell out the ILO gender policy. The measures proposed in the Action Plan on gender equality and mainstreaming (2001) help to identify potentially different effects of the ILO interventions on women and men, and steps needed to ensure that these activities have a positive influence on gender equality.

There are multiple priority gender issues within the ILO Decent Work agenda, including inequality of rights; access to and control over resources; occupational segregation; pay and income inequities for work of all kinds; unequal representation at decision-making and managerial level; balancing work and family responsibilities; different levels of protection at work including women's generally lower coverage by social protection schemes and men's generally higher rate of industrial injury; unequal representation of men and women in social dialogue; sexual harassment and violence; trafficking. Promoting gender equality is also key to addressing widespread poverty among informal economy workers, home-workers, migrant workers, part-time workers, young and elderly workers, and child labourers.

Over the past two decades, the ILO has taken many important policy development initiatives, within the Organization and at the global level, and has contributed to mainstream gender concerns through programming, institutional development, normative actions and technical assistance. The ILO was the first in the UN system to conduct participatory gender audits in the ILO Headquarters and field offices that proved to be an innovative and effective tool of organizational learning on gender mainstreaming (see more in Knowledge and Tools).

The ILO Subregional office in Moscow which covers 10 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- is playing an important role in introducing and clarifying gender equality concepts with constituents in the CIS countries, where generally there is a lack of clear national policy and necessary institutional arrangements to pursue gender equality. The development and adoption of the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for the ILO Subregional Office in Moscow is one of the important achievements of the office in the current biennium. The strategy stipulates the general and more specific objectives on gender equality, focuses on priority gender issues in the CIS countries and identifies key areas for the ILO actions.