Mapping anti-discrimination law onto inequality at work: Expanding the meaning of equality in international labour law


  • The author wishes to thank Monika Rahman and Anna Shea, for their thoughtful comments and research assistance, and to acknowledge financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

  • Responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles rests solely with their authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the ILO.


This article explores the evolving relationship between the concept of discrimination in international labour law and the socio-economic phenomenon of inequality at work. While non-discrimination was initially understood as a fairly limited legal principle mandating equal treatment for similarly situated individuals, it subsequently expanded to address indirect discrimination resulting from apparently neutral rules, standards and practices at work. It has expanded further to take on group-based patterns of inequality at work related to the structural constraints of the market, the family and community life, ultimately resulting in convergence between anti-discrimination law and legal initiatives to reduce class-based socioeconomic inequality and poverty.