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Youth, migrant workers more likely to face work harassment

by Leila Salaverria

WORKPLACE violence and harassment affected more than one in five workers worldwide, and youth and migrant workers were among those who were more likely to have suffered from it, according to a joint analysis conducted by the International Labour Organization, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and polling company Gallup.

Young women were also twice as likely as young men to have faced sexual violence and harassment, and migrant women were almost twice as likely as non-migrant women to report sexual violence and harassment, said the ILO. 

The survey, the first joint analysis of data worldwide, seeks to shed light on the prevalence and frequency of violence and harassment at work and workers’ experience in disclosing these incidents. 

“The ultimate goal is to raise awareness on a long-standing and highly complex issue rooted in wider economic, societal, and cultural contexts, including those surrounding the world of work and entrenched gender roles,” the report said.

Worldwide problem

It found that violence and harassment at work is a widespread phenomenon around the world. Some 22.8 percent, or 743 million persons in employment, experienced at least one form of violence and harassment at work, whether physical, psychological or sexual. 

And among these people, 31.8 percent said they had experienced more than one form of violence and harassment, and 6.3 percent had faced all three forms in their working life.

“It’s painful to learn that people face violence and harassment not just once but multiple times in their working lives,” Manuela Tomei, ILO Assistant Director-General for Governance, Rights and Dialogue, said in a statement.

Tomei said the findings show there is much that still need to be done to improve working conditions. 

“The report tells us about the enormity of task ahead to end violence and harassment in the world of work. I hope it will expedite action on the ground and towards the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190,” she said, referring to the international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. 

Who’s at risk?

The survey found that youth, migrant, and wage and salaried women and men were more likely to face violence and harassment at work, and this can be particularly true among women. 

Youth in employment, or those between 15 and 24, were most likely to have experienced violence and harassment at work within the past five years. The prevalence rate is 23.3 percent worldwide. 

The number decreases with age. The survey said 20.2 percent of employed persons aged 25 to 34 experienced violence and harassment, while 12 percent of those aged 55 and above experienced the same.

Young women were also more likely to be targeted, the survey said.

“When looking at gender differences, young women were more likely than young men to have experienced violence and harassment at work within the past five years,” it said. 

Young men and women workers also reported that psychological violence was the most common form of violence they experienced. 

The survey found that 17.9 percent, or 73 million youth, faced psychological violence and harassment within the past five years. 

It said 8.8 percent, or 36 million, faced physical violence and harassment, and 6 percent, or 24 million, experienced sexual violence and harassment.

Women were more likely to face psychological as well as sexual violence and harassment, it said.  

“While no notable gender differences were seen in relation to physical violence and harassment, young women were 5.5. percentage points more likely than young men to have experienced psychological violence and harassment, and more than twice as likely to have been victims of sexual harassment and violence,” it said. 

The survey further found that migrant workers experienced a higher prevalence of violence and harassment at work in the last five years. They were 3.1 percentage points more likely to have experienced violence and harassment compared to non-migrants.

Migrant women were more likely than migrant men to have experienced violence and harassment.

Wage and salaried workers were also more likely than those who are self-employed to have experienced violence and harassment. And the women were more at risk than men. 

Persons who have experienced discrimination at some point in their life, whether due to gender, skin color, nationality, religion, disability status, were more likely as well to have experienced violence and harassment at work.

“Those facing gender-based discrimination have been particularly affected: Nearly five in 10 people who have been victims of gender-based discrimination in their life have also faced violence and harassment at work, compared to two in 10 of those who have not been discriminated against on the basis of gender,” it said. 

What to do next?

The survey had several recommendations on how to address these problems.

One is the regular collection of robust data on violence and harassment at work to help in the formulation of laws and mechanisms, as well as policies and programs. 

Another is the extension and updating of mechanisms to prevent these incidents at work, including through labor inspection systems and occupational safety and health policies and programs.

It also sought an increase in the awareness of violence and harassment at work to change perceptions that could influence these behaviors.

It recommended enhancing the capacity of institutions to conduct effective prevention, remediation and support, to build people’s trust in justice and ensure victims are supported.



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