Labour market discrimination still a big problem in OECD countries

Women are 20% less likely than men to have a paid job in OECD countries and they earn on average 17% less than men, according to the latest edition of OECD’s Employment Outlook. At least 30% of the gap in wages and 8% of the gap in employment rates result from discriminatory practices in the labour market.

The need to step up efforts to fight labour market discrimination is one of the main messages of the 2008 Employment Outlook. Promoting equal opportunities is a key policy goal in OECD countries, and virtually all OECD countries have enacted anti-discrimination laws in recent decades. But governments still need to do more to ensure a level playing field for all.

“Labour market discrimination is still a big obstacle,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría commented. "Many workplaces not only have a glass ceiling but also a glass door, which keeps out women and ethnic minorities. (read Mr. Gurría’s speech)”

In some OECD countries, individuals from ethnic minorities take 40% to 50% more time to get a job interview than others with the same characteristics but belonging to majority groups. And even when they do succeed in getting a job, Mr Gurría noted, they often earn lower wages than their majority-groups counterparts.

Policies to help fight discrimination

In support of a drive to combat labour discrimination, the OECD report makes a number of recommendations:

- Long-term investment in education and training can prepare people better for the labour market.
- Structural reforms to promote stronger and more sustainable economic growth can boost demand for workers, creating a more competitive environment that forces managers to drop discriminatory hiring and promotion practices.
- Specific anti-discrimination legislation needs to be backed up by effective enforcement.
- Enforcement agencies should be empowered, even in the absence of individual complaints, to investigate companies and sanction employers when they find evidence of discrimination.


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