Professor Jill Rubery was commissioned by the ILO to write this Working Paper, as an input for the preparation of the 2003 Global Report on the elimination of discrimination in the world of work2. The establishment of a floor to the wage structure is of paramount importance to groups of workers discriminated on grounds such as sex, ethnicity, national origin, age and disability, as these groups are disproportionately represented at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy. By identifying the role that minimum wages can play in reducing gender discrimination in pay, Jill Rubery’s paper contributes to our understanding of the forms of labour market processes compatible with the promotion of non-discrimination, equality and decent work.
The paper reviews the underlying causes of pay discrimination embedded within the organisation of the labour market and structures of pay and reward. It compares minimum wage policies to more targeted equal pay policies as a tool to reduce the gender pay gap. It explores attitudes towards minimum wages among the major actors in order to identify potential obstacles to or support for such policies. It reviews experiences with the use of a minimum wage instrument in specific countries, identifies gaps in knowledge and the need for both new approaches to research and policy monitoring.