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Workplace discrimination

Discrimination is a complex, multi-factor phenomenon. Evidence shows widespread discrimination on various grounds, including ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or beliefs, disability, being over 55 years old, or being a woman. It is not only unfair and potentially costly to the individuals who experience it, but also results in large economic costs for society.

Labor market discrimination based on physical attributes, for example, is widespread. Obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, are likely to earn lower wages; physically attractive people, on the other hand, earn more than those considered to be less attractive; and looks can even be pivotal in national elections. But, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy task. Anti-discrimination policies and blind recruitment methods can help in the fight to make workplaces more equal, but there is still a long way to go.

  • Disability and labor market outcomes Updated

    Disability is associated with labor market disadvantage; evidence points to this being a causal relationship

    Melanie Jones, March 2021
    In Europe, about one in eight people of working age report having a disability; that is, a long-term limiting health condition. Despite the introduction of a range of legislative and policy initiatives designed to eliminate discrimination and facilitate retention of and entry into work, disability is associated with substantial and enduring labor market disadvantage in many countries. Identifying the reasons for this is complex, but critical to determine effective policy solutions that reduce the extent, and social and economic costs, of disability-related disadvantage.
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  • Correspondence testing studies Updated

    What is there to learn about discrimination in hiring?

    Dan-Olof Rooth, January 2021
    Anti-discrimination policies play an important role in public discussions. However, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy task. Correspondence testing provides a credible way to reveal discrimination in hiring and provide hard facts for policies, and it has provided evidence of discrimination in hiring across almost all continents except Africa. The method involves sending matched pairs of identical job applications to employers posting jobs—the only difference being a characteristic that signals membership to a group.
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  • Racial wage differentials in developed countries Updated

    The variation of racial wage gaps across and within groups requires differing policy solutions

    Simonetta Longhi, October 2020
    In many developed countries, racial and ethnic minorities are paid, on average, less than the native white majority. While racial wage differentials are partly the result of immigration, they also persist for racial minorities of second and further generations. Eliminating racial wage differentials and promoting equal opportunities among citizens with different racial backgrounds is an important social policy goal. Inequalities resulting from differences in opportunities lead to a waste of talent for those who cannot reach their potential and to a waste of resources if some people cannot contribute fully to society.
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  • Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap Updated

    Despite major efforts at equal pay legislation, gender pay inequality still exists—how can this be put right?

    Solomon W. Polachek, October 2019
    Despite equal pay legislation dating back 50 years, American women still earn 18% less than their male counterparts. In the UK, with its Equal Pay Act of 1970, and France, which legislated in 1972, the gap is 17% and 10% respectively, and in Australia it remains around 14%. Interestingly, the gender pay gap is relatively small for the young but increases as men and women grow older. Similarly, it is large when comparing married men and women, but smaller for singles. Just what can explain these wage patterns? And what can governments do to speed up wage convergence to close the gender pay gap? Clearly, the gender pay gap continues to be an important policy issue.
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  • Obesity and labor market outcomes Updated

    The hidden private costs of obesity: lower earnings and a lower probability of employment

    Susan L. Averett, August 2019
    Rising obesity is a pressing global public health problem responsible for rising health care costs and in some countries one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. There is substantial evidence that obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, earn lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact. Understanding whether obesity is associated with adverse labor market outcomes and ascertaining the source of these outcomes are essential for designing effective public policy.
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  • Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes Updated

    Sexual orientation seems to affect job access and satisfaction, earning prospects, and interaction with colleagues

    Nick Drydakis, July 2019
    Studies from countries with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation suggest that gay and lesbian employees report more incidents of harassment and are more likely to report experiencing unfair treatment in the labor market than are heterosexual employees. Both gay men and lesbians tend to be less satisfied with their jobs than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men are found to earn less than comparably skilled and experienced heterosexual men. For lesbians, the patterns are ambiguous: in some countries they have been found to earn less than their heterosexual counterparts, while in others they earn the same or more.
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