Combating discrimination in employment

Reducing discrimination against workers
Achieving equality in occupation
Achieving equality in rights of workers
Promoting equality of opportunity of workers
Restricting by trade union practices

The main forms of discrimination and inequality are based on sex, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.


ILO combats all forms of discrimination in employment and occupation to ensure that international labour standards on equality of opportunity and treatment in in employment and occupation are respected as widely as possible.

In 1997, the European Parliament was presented with a report to end all forms of discrimination in EU institutions. The report was not accepted but is likely to be amended and represented.

On 13th October 1999 the European Commission presented the shape of the new Community Initiative EQUAL, which is to have a budget of around EUR 2.8 billion over the next 6 years. Its objective is transnational cooperation to encourage innovative ways of fighting against all types of discrimination and inequality on the labour market, including the social and professional integration of asylum seekers. Projects will be managed by 'development partnerships'. Geographical development partnerships will assemble all concerned actors or interests in a given geographical area so as to pool their efforts and resources into an agreed project. Sector-specific development partnerships will bring together national governments and social partners to fight against inequality and discrimination in specific sectors.

It is illegal to discriminate between nationals of the different European Union member states, and between women and men, under the successive Treaties which represent the EU's constitution. A directive proposed by the European Commission in 1999 would ban discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion, convictions, age, disability or sexual orientation. It would also ban discrimination as regards access to employment or a profession, promotions and vocational training as well as differential treatment in working conditions. There would be derogations; a Catholic organization, for example, could require its employees to be Catholic as well.

Another draft directive sought to combat discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin in a wide range of areas other than employment in the strict sense of the word. They include access to trade, the liberal professions, employer's organizations and trade unions, social security and social protection, and education, including scholarships. The proposal bans both direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment. An action programme which the Commission proposed along with the directives was designed to complement them through the exchange of information and experience, and the dissemination of best practices. It would run from 2001 to 2006. The EU would support exchanges between member countries and activities at the EU level, but not local or national initiatives. Some 100 million euro could be available for this purpose.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 10: Reduced Inequality