'Equality at work: tackling the challenges' paints a picture of work-related discrimination across the globe, looking at areas such as gender, racial and religious bias and new forms of discrimination, based on disability, age, sexual orientation and HIV status.
Among the upbeat findings were the fact that female labour force participation rates continue to rise. However, it reveals a large gap between North America, where 71.1% of women participate in the workforce, to 32% in the Middle East and North Africa.
It also highlights the fact that only 28.3% of legislative, senior official or managerial positions are held by women on a global basis, and within the EU, there is a 15% disparity in favour of men when it comes to average gross hourly earnings.
The report highlights examples of discrimination based on people's race, religion, social origin and caste, and warns that cases like these, as well as bias against young or old workers and those with a disability or HIV can prevent societies from realising their full economic potential.
It also warns of the dangers of using genetic testing to discriminate against those who have a predisposition to developing certain diseases, though it notes that many countries are already legislating against such practices.
It concludes that a series of steps need to be taken to combat discrimination. These include promoting gender equality and enacting better laws and enforcing them more rigorously.
Without urgent action, the report warns that "significant and persistent inequalities in income, assets and opportunities dilute the effectiveness of any action aimed at combating discrimination. This may lead to political instability and social upheaval, which upset investment and economic growth", it says.
Equality at work: Tackling the challenges
International Labour Organisation, May 2007
Reviewed by Jennifer Whitehead