2020

Global study finds critical gaps in workplace protections


Laws prohibiting discrimination are key to ensuring equal economic opportunity, UCLA researchers say.

laptop, coffee cup, and phone on a desk

As throngs of people around the world stand in solidarity with American protesters calling for an end to racial injustice, a sweeping study of 193 countries by the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center reveals critical gaps in legal protections against discrimination on the job.

Nearly one in four countries continue to have no legal protection from discrimination at work based on race and ethnicity, according to the study, just published in the journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

This is not a question of a nation’s resources, researchers found. In fact, high-income countries do slightly worse: 28% of high-income countries fail to have any protections, compared to 19% of low-income countries and 23% of middle-income countries.

Even in countries that prohibit discrimination, substantial gaps in legal protections exist.  Globally, 51% of countries offer no protection from retaliation against workers who report discriminatory treatment based on race or ethnicity, preventing individuals from accessing justice, the study revealed.

Moreover, laws against discrimination often provided only partial protection or failed to specify areas covered. The study analyzed laws and regulations governing hiring, pay, promotions and demotions, terminations and harassment in all 193 members of the United Nations.

“Discrimination at work persists across countries, but there is powerful evidence that anti-discrimination laws can make a difference,” said Jody Heymann, founder of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and a distinguished professor of public policy, health policy and management, and medicine at UCLA. “All the world’s countries have agreed to address inequality, over and over again, at the U.N. This cannot be achieved without providing legal guarantees to non-discrimination at work for all people.”

In addition to race and ethnicity, WORLD researchers assessed gaps in national legislation protecting against discrimination based on sex, parenting status, gender identity, sexual orientation, migrant status and foreign national origin, among other groupings. Among the findings:

  • 53% of the countries do not guarantee equal pay for work of equal value based on sex
  • 62% do not prohibit discrimination based on parenting status
  • 68% do not guarantee protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • 90% do not guarantee protection from discrimination at work based on gender identity
  • 62% do not guarantee protection from discrimination based on migrant status
  • 62% do not guarantee protection from discrimination based on foreign national origin

“Equal access to decent work is one of the most promising ways to end cycles of poverty, yet discrimination on the job persists,” said study co-author Amy Raub, principal research analyst at WORLD. “Legal protection from workplace discrimination is a critical first step to ensuring equal opportunities for economic success.”

In addition to the newly published research, the WORLD Policy Analysis Center has posted detailed data, maps, charts and policy briefs on workplace discrimination in four categories: race and ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, and migrant status.


The WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA is a nonprofit policy research center that aims to improve the quantity and quality of globally comparative data on policies affecting human health, development, well-being and equity. With this data, WORLD informs policy debates and advances efforts to improve government transparency and accountability. The center’s founding director, Jody Heymann, is a distinguished professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, Luskin School of Public Affairs and David Geffen School of Medicine. She is also dean emeritus of the Fielding School.

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 690 students from 25 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world
map
map
map
map
map

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Balgrosky headshot
Jean Balgrosky
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Kristen Choi
Kristen Choi
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Aria Fallah
Aria Fallah
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. John Lu
Z. John Lu
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Avram Kaplan
Avram Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Mangione, C
Carol Mangione
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Emmeline Chuang
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Freund, Deborah
Deborah Anne Freund
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Davidson - headshop
Pamela Davidson
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Yvonne Flores
Yvonne Flores
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Steven Teutsch
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Thomas Priselac
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Comanor, Bill
William Comanor
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

@UCLA since 1997

Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Neal Halfon
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Mark Litwin
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Burt Cowgill
Burt Cowgill
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Arlene Fink
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Image of Dr. Susan Ettner
Susan Ettner
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Jeanne Miranda
Jeanne Miranda
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Beth Glenn
Beth Glenn
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
David Hayes-Bautista
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Galper, Michael
Michael Galper
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Warren Scott Comulada
Warren Scott Comulada
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Gerald Kominski
Gerald Kominski
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Paul Chung
Paul Chung
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Kadiyala, Srikanth
Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
silhoette
Ty Robbins
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Brennan Spiegel
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Kenneth Wells
Kenneth Wells
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Leah Vriesman
Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Frederick Zimmerman
Frederick Zimmerman
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Robert Brook
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Moira Inkelas
Moira Inkelas
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Dylan Roby
Dylan Roby
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Samuel Sessions
Samuel Sessions
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. William McCarthy
William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Aronberg, Sandra
Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Risha Gidwani
Risha Gidwani
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Nadereh Pourat
Nadereh Pourat
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Clifford Ko
Clifford Ko
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Felicia Hodge
Felicia Hodge
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Paul Fu, Jr.
Paul Fu, Jr.
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Michael Ong
Michael Ong
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Daniel Eisenberg
Daniel Eisenberg
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Annette Maxwell
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Joann Elmore
Joann G. Elmore
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Alan Tomines
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Vickie Mays
Vickie Mays
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Barbara Berman
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Yusuke Tsugawa
Yusuke Tsugawa
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Jennifer Wortham
Jennifer Wortham
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Gordon headshot
Thomas D. Gordon
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Roshan Bastani Headshot
Roshan Bastani
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Alice Kuo
Alice Kuo
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Laura Erskine
Laura Erskine
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Emily Abel
Emily Abel
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Olivia Jung
Olivia Jung
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Diana Hilberman
Diana Hilberman
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Lillian Gelberg
Lillian Gelberg
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Anthony Schiff
Anthony Hunter Schiff
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Naomi Zewde
Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile

Related Content

May 11, 2020
Paid sick leave a crucial weapon during COVID-19 era and beyond, UCLA study finds

Paid sick leave a crucial weapon during COVID-19 era and beyond, UCLA study finds. Analysis of policies in 193 countries shows that gaps in coverage for ill workers put nations’ health and economic security at risk.

Read Full Article