Discrimination and Inequality in the Labor Market

Discrimination and Inequality in the Labor Market

Discrimination and Inequality in the Labor Market

The goal of the program is to draw attention to the problem of gender discrimination in the labor market. The project focuses on both those who are faced with the problem of gender inequality in the labor sphere, and people who make decisions about hiring: employers, recruitment agencies. Donate

The study of the situation in the area of gender discrimination in the labor market and at the job application stage was conducted in 2018. The target population were both employed and unemployed working-age men and women, i.e. aged between 16 and 63: a total of 1,298 respondents (554 men, 744 women). The sample is representative of the urban working population of Belarus in terms of sex, age, region and community size. Special attention was paid to the risk groups defined at the sampling stage: unmarried, childless women under 35; married, childless women under 35; women with children under 10; women on maternal leave; women aged 50-58 and men aged 55-63.

As many as 85.0% of Belarusians faced discrimination in the labor market (89.6% of women and 80.4% of men). Discrimination against women was mostly linked to their roles as wives and mothers, and discrimination of men, to their age.

No social group was secured against infringement of its rights, but the most vulnerable groups were married and unmarried, childless women under 35, women with children under 10 and women on maternity leave: only 10% of these had never faced recognized or unrecognized discrimination. The risk of discrimination was higher among respondents aged 35-44 and individuals with a higher education.

The most common type of discrimination was discrimination when applying for a job: 69.3% of respondents, of which 73.8% were women and 64.7% were men. In the retail sector, that figure reached 84.3%. Among vulnerable groups, the risk of discrimination was the highest among married, childless women under 35 (84.0%). The main forms of discrimination were refusal of employment due to age, more frequent toward men, and inappropriate questions about marital status and children, more frequent toward women.

As much as 64.1% of the economically active population (68% of women and 60.3% of men) had been subjected to discrimination in the workplace, with respondents aged 35-44 and young women under 35 affected more frequently than others. The main forms of discrimination were: forcing to do disagreeable work that fell outside the scope of the employee’s duties, as well as disparagement and disrespect. The most common ground for discrimination was age, especially young age. As much as 28.6% of men and 27.1% of women had faced unreasonable demands to their appearance, 18.8% of respondents (23% of women and 14.6% of men) had experienced sexual encroachment. Discrimination was the most common in the public sector.

A significant problem was a lack of awareness of discrimination: 24.7% had faced discrimination, but were unaware of this, including 26.6% when applying for a job and 17.6% in the workplace. Awareness of discrimination significantly depended on the willingness to defend one’s rights: when applying for a job, 44.4% of those who were aware of and 33.5% of those who did not recognize discrimination wanted to take action; in case of discrimination in the workplace, 25.8% and 18.4%, respectively, took action.

In general, the readiness to defend one’s violated rights was low: 12.7% undertook something when applying for a job, whereas 40.1% wanted to but refrained; in workplace situations, the figures were 22.7% and 40.5%, respectively. During pregnancy or on maternity leave, the proportion of those who undertook something was higher (25.7%), which demonstrated both the acuteness of the problem and the availability of resolution options. In case of sexual harassment, 34.8% defended their rights, whereas 33.1% wanted to but refrained; in case of demands to appearance, the figures were 17.7% and 20.1%, respectively. One of the key responses to infringement of rights was quitting: about 30% of those who responded to discrimination did exactly that.

The main barrier to defending employees’ rights was the idea that it is meaningless and ineffective. As far as discrimination in the workplace is concerned, 35.9% were afraid of a worsening relationship with their supervisor, and 23.3% wanted to keep their jobs at any cost. No regularities (age, education, occupation or gender) regarding the willingness to resist discrimination were identified. It is necessary to disseminate information about effective mechanisms to combat discrimination and to raise awareness of success stories of rights defense.

There are no significant restrictions on the use of the term “discrimination”: a fairly high proportion of respondents used this term to refer to violations of their rights. There were just 11.6% of those who had been aware of infringement during a job application process but did not use the term, and 13.2% who had been aware of infringement in workplace relationships but did not use the term to refer to this.

The problem of discrimination in the labor market requires close attention and a cross-sectoral approach to finding solutions. The following most vulnerable groups require special attention: married and unmarried, childless women under 35; women with children under 10; women on maternity leave, young people, as well as employees whose discrimination can have a significant negative economic effect: people aged 35-44 with a higher education.

It is important to reduce the level of exposure to discrimination among pregnant women and women on maternity leave, of which 26.2% were exposed to discrimination. Creating conditions for combining the role of a mother and active involvement in the job market should be an integral element of family and demographic policies.

It is necessary to raise the level of awareness about employees’ rights. An absence of complaints is not a sign that rights are not violated, as employees are normally reluctant to take any action to defend themselves. Inappropriate questions about marital status and children during interviews are less frequently recognized as discrimination. The same is true of situations in the workplace, such as forcing to do disagreeable work that falls outside the scope of the employee’s duties, and the employee’s reluctance to ask for a pay raise due for gender, age or other discriminatory grounds.

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