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Addressing inequalities in labour markets

Read how Yamila Pita summarises the final contents of this free online-course by relating intersectionality and labour markets.
© University of Basel
In this last week of our course, we introduced a key concept for addressing inequalities in labour markets: intersectionality.

Moving from a gender perspective to an intersectional perspective responds to the fact that there are multiple inequalities and discriminations in labour markets. This means that in addition to being gendered institutions (which has detrimental consequences for women), they are spaces marked by other forms of inequality that overlap with gender inequality.

In this respect, the example of the Nepali labour market that we discussed this week is very representative. The organisation of the labour market reflects the social structure of the country, and thus also the inequalities that result from it.

In this case, gender is not the only category of experience and analysis, and therefore should not be thought of independently. Other social markers (for instance, caste membership) should be considered, as they are also determinants of labour market entry and participation.

When we think about the ways in which the various criteria of discrimination interact, we realise that not all workers face the same conditions of precariousness and vulnerability. We must therefore avoid homogenising people’s experiences and analyse and address multiple inequalities through the prism of intersectionality.

The COVID-19 pandemic was presented as a paradigmatic example that demonstrates the relevance of intersectionality. As we saw, the crisis unleashed by the pandemic is not exclusively a health crisis, but also a socio-economic one which does not affect everyone equally. It has disproportionately affected women, and particularly those belonging to marginalised groups.

Once again, we need to understand how the intersection of various categories of oppression (such as class, disability, ethnicity, migration status, race, religion, sexuality, and so on) contribute to this situation. These considerations are central to thinking about state action and the design and implementation of public policies aimed at alleviating the effects of the crisis.

It is therefore essential that policy-making has the capacity to respond to people’s experiences and problems. Of course, labour market policies are no exception: it is necessary to recognise the complexity of social structures and to pay particular attention to the intersection of multiple disadvantages (which goes beyond easily identifiable inequalities).

At this point, it is becoming clear how the various themes that we worked on together over the last few weeks are inextricably connected. It is not possible to think about fairer labour markets and decent working conditions without considering the fact that inequalities in the world of work are rooted in social structures. Understanding that labour markets are not neutral institutions is the first step towards developing policies that guarantee equal opportunities for all.

© University of Basel
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Gender and Labour in the Global South

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