Discrimination in employment may be based on sex, religion, race, nationality, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other factors. While policies regarding such discrimination vary from country to country, even in those countries which outwardly forbid such practice, covert discrimination may be couched under such terms as 'distinctions', 'exclusions' or 'preferences'.
Inequalities of opportunity and treatment may arise either from deliberate acts of discrimination or from passive situations resulting from economic, social, cultural or geographic factors. Groups affected include aboriginal and tribal populations; those occupying specific backward regions; different ethnic groups; different religious and linguistic communities; and foreign workers. In some cases minorities are alleged to practise discrimination against the majority. Very often this discrimination is not so much a matter of fact as one of feeling.
In 1958 the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111), and a Recommendation on the same subject containing similar substantive provisions. In the Convention, "discrimination" is defined as including any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment of occupation. States parties to the Convention undertake to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, with a view to eliminating any discrimination in respect thereof. They undertake further to work with employers' and workers' organizations to meet these ends, to make any necessary legislative changes, to reflect these objectives, and to pursue them as themselves as employers.
Women are notoriously discriminated against both in opportunity and pay; mandatory requirement is age discrimination; foreign workers often receive low-pay, low-status jobs; members of some religious sects may be discouraged from applying for certain positions; and in the USA, AIDS victims are currently battling what they view as discriminatory hiring and firing policies.
Although anti-discrimination legislation exists in Russia, in Moscow in 1992, sexist and ageist job advertisements were reported to be commonplace. A new brokerage house published announcement seeking woman ages 18-21 for secretarial position and applicant were told to come to the interview wearing a mini-skirt. An advertising firm requested that applicants for a receptionist position submit a full-size photo, preferably one showing them in a bikini.
[Developing countries] Before independence, political but not economic unification was imposed in many developing countries. When the colonisers left, the more important jobs tended to be taken over by the educated middle classes and denied to poorer and minority groups.