Discriminatory practices and stereotypes continue to affect the most marginalized groups in society and hinder their participation in the labor market. The European Commission (EC) states in its Report on the Progress of the Republic of North Macedonia that structural deficiencies are still observed in the labor market and impede potential growth and development. The gender gap in the labor market in 2020 increased by 22.7 percentage points, due to the fact that most women (compared to men) were excluded from the labor market this year. The employment rate for men (20 to 64 years old) in 2020 was 68.9 percent, and for women 49 percent, resulting in a high gender gap in employment of 19.9 percentage points.
Starting from the fundamental principles and rights at work, and based on the established conventions to which the character of “basic” conventions in the field of labor has been ascribed, the International Labor Organization (ILO) positions labor inspection at the center of promoting and ensuring dignified working conditions and safe working environment, adherence to basic principles of operation and protection. The rules of the International Labor Organization treat discrimination as a violation of workers’ rights and at no point call into question the role of labor inspectorates as the primary safeguards against discrimination.
Our labor inspectorate is placed at the center of labor legislation, as the primary mechanism for protection of workers’ rights. The anti-discrimination legislation, which primarily covers the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the Law on Labor Relations and the Law on Protection from Harassment at Work, the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the Law on Employment of Disabled Persons, clearly define the competence of the State Labor Inspectorate to act in cases of discrimination at work. At present, the Inspectorate does not recognize the LPPD as a law that it should apply whenever workers report unequal treatment at work. The State Labor Inspectorate, as a mechanism for ensuring dignified working conditions and a safe working environment, respecting the basic principles of work and protection in practice, does not fulfill its role of protecting workers victims of unequal treatment at work.
The latest policy document of the Network for Protection against Discrimination, “State Labor Inspectorate as a protector of workers from discrimination” aims to identify possible obstacles encountered by the State Labor Inspectorate in the implementation of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and to offer an appropriate solution to overcome them. At the same time, this document identifies the shortcomings of the key protection mechanism of workers’ rights in establishing a comprehensive, effective and efficient system of protection against discrimination, which occur as a consequence of the non-application of the LPPD.
The document also offers analysis and arguments for the current and potential situation, set in three possible scenarios with consequences and significance for the protection of workers from discrimination, depending on whether the status quo will be maintained or the circumstances will change.
The document was prepared within the project “Network for Protection against Discrimination: Joint Action for the Promotion of Equality and Social Justice of Marginalized Communities” and is financially supported by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.
—————————————————21 January 2022