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Article 6: The right to work.

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.

2. The steps to be taken by a State Party to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programs, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.


Article 6 guarantees the right of everyone to work. It requires the State to take appropriate steps to safeguard that right. Article 6(1) emphasizes the right to enter into freely chosen employment and the right not to be unjustly deprived of work. It also implies the right to be free from forced labor. Article 6(2) requires the government to take specific steps to ensure realization of the right to work, including implementation of necessary policies and introduction of educational and vocational programs. Article 6 often is applied with reference to other relevant United Nations treaties and with standards identified in the International Labor Organization conventions.

Article 6 implicitly acknowledges that work is essential to physical survival and its profound significance to individual identity.

Article 6 must be read together with Article 2(2) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and with Article 3's guarantee of equality. This requires the State to abolish laws, regulations, and cultural or religious practices or attitudes that restrict the types of work in which women may engage. women's freedom of movement, and any gender-based workplace discrimination, harassment, or violence that preclude women from exercising their right to work on a basis equal to that of men. It also requires the State to adopt and implement legislation to ensure that women and men have equal access to jobs and occupations and to vocational training and guidance in both the public and private sectors. Monitoring and reporting under Article 6 thus should include sex-disaggregated data relating to unemployment levels among women and men, discrimination in employment recruitment and dismissal, equality of opportunity for vocational training and education, and employment security. (4)

Many factors specific to women have a direct impact on women's enjoyment of Article 6 rights. For example, unemployment and under-employment increase opportunities for trafficking in women for prostitution, sex tourism, and exploitive domestic labor. Trafficking in women violates women's fundamental human rights, including the requirement of Article 6(1) that women be accorded the right to freely choose their employment. Traditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotypical roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the workplace. Women's right to work is often further limited by customary restrictions on their freedom of movement outside the home or by practical issues such as fear of violence in public spaces, including public transportation.

The Committee has recognized that disabled, retired, and rural women, and women who are racial and ethnic minorities or immigrants, are particularly vulnerable to violations of the right to work. (6) Their working status must be carefully monitored and any artificial barriers to work opportunities must be removed. Women also predominate in the informal sector in many countries, in occupations such as agricultural work, street-vending, domestic work, and food preparation. These jobs often are characterized by limited and insecure employment opportunities and poor work conditions and must be monitored closely. The Committee also has emphasized that particular attention must be paid to monitoring the right to work where a government privatizes basic services and opens the economy to market forces and non-governmental actors. (7)

The Committee has recognized that women in many countries face both legal and customary obstacles that affect their right to work. The Committee has noted with concern State constitutions that fail to address labor rights (8); States in which women are disproportionately affected by unemployment and where the State has failed to take concrete action to discourage discriminatory dismissal or hiring on the basis of sex or to provide meaningful remedies to the victims of such discrimination (9); the under-representation of women employed in the formal sector (10) and in public service, including Parliament and other governmental decision-making bodies (11); lower mandatory retirement ages for women, which the Committee has noted results in lower pensions for women (12); and, the failure of States to eradicate discriminatory practices, including restrictions on access to land, property and credit, that hinder women's efforts to enter into business. (13) In addition, the Committee has recommended that States create and/or implement national plans of action to eliminate inequalities faced by women in the economic sphere and to undertake national job creation programs and vocational training programs for women.

Questions to ask:

1. Do distinctions exist between women and men in recruitment and employment practices? If so, what are they?

2. What laws or other measures exist to prohibit discrimination against women in employment, employment recruitment, and employment termination? Are these provisions enforced? How?

3. What laws or other measures exist to prohibit discrimination against the disabled, racial or ethnic minorities, immigrants or older workers in employment, employment recruitment, or employment termination? Are these provisions enforced? How? Can women use them in conjunction with claims based on sex discrimination?

4. What percentage of women with disabilities work in the waged labor force?

5. What percentage of women who are racial or ethnic minorities or immigrants work in the waged labor force? Do they work predominantly in particular employment sectors? How do pay scales compare with other sectors?

6. What percentage of women of retirement age work? What are the main reasons for their continued employment?

7. What legislative or other measures have been taken to promote equal employment opportunities for women and men? Are these provisions effective?

8. What percentage of the total waged labor force are women? Of the total waged workforce between the ages of 15-24? Ages 25-44? Ages 45 and older?

9. Of the women in the waged labor force, what percentage are part-time workers? What percentage are full-time workers? What percentage of part-time and fulltime workers overall are women?

10. Are there professions or employment sectors that, by law or custom, tend to be filled predominantly by women? What are they? Are there professions or employment sectors that, by law or custom, tend to be filled predominantly by men? What are they? Are female-dominated professions or employment sectors less lucrative than male-dominated sectors?

11. Does the government ensure that opportunities exist for women in occupations that are not traditionally pursued by or open to women?

12. Are women encouraged to take up apprenticeships or training in fields not usually pursued by women?

13. Do women predominantly fill jobs in the informal economy?

14. Are women prohibited or restricted by law or by custom from engaging in particular forms of work, such as night work, sweatshop work, factory work, underground and mine work or work in particular industries? If so, on what basis are women restricted from participating? What effect do such restrictions have on women's economic opportunities?

15. Identify the nature and extent of the attitudes, customs, practices and/or laws that perpetuate prejudices or practices that subordinate women to men or that stereotype roles for men and women in the workplace. Identify the measures undertaken by the government to change these attitudes and practices.

16. Has the government introduced education and public information programs to help eliminate prejudices that hinder women's right to freely choose an occupation? How effective have those programs been?

17. Identify laws that inhibit women's freedom of movement within society and describe how they inhibit their choices of occupation and place of employment.

18. Identify practices that inhibit women's freedom of movement within society. Describe measures taken to change the practices and ensure women's freedom of movement. Describe specific measures taken to overcome limitations on women's freedom of movement.

19. Do women have economic and legal access to the input needed to start up or engage in business? For example, can women obtain credit, own land, or equipment, obtain transportation, or travel freely? Describe any legal or cultural obstacles.

(4) General Comment No. 1 (1989).

(6) See, for example, General Comment No. 5, paras. 20-22, Eleventh Session (1994) (right to work of persons with disabilities); General Comment No. 6, para. 22, Thirteenth Session (1995) (right to work of older persons).

(7) Fact Sheet No. 16 (rev.1), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, available at

(8) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Peru. 16/05/1997. E/C.12/1/Add.14.

(9) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Russia. 20/05/1997. E/C.12/1/Add.13; Georgia. 17/05/2000. E/C.12/1/Add.12; Senegal.24/09/2001. E/C.12/1/Add.62; Solomon Islands. 19/12/2002. E/C.12/1/Add.84; Luxembourg.23/05/2003. E/C.12/1/Add.86; Moldova. 12/12/2003. E/C.12/1/Add.91; Russian Federation. 12/12/2003. E/C.12/1/Add.94.

(10) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Congo. 23/05/2000. E/C.12/1/Add.45.

(11) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Georgia. 17/05/2000. E/C.12/1/Add.12; Solomon Islands. 19/12/2002. E/C.12/1/Add.84; Yemen. 12/12/2003. E/C.12/1/Add.92; Guatemala.12/12/2003. E/C.12/1/Add.93; Spain. 07/06/04. E/C.12/1/Add.99.

(12) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Poland. 19/12/2002. E/C.12/1/Add.82.

(13) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Senegal. 24/09/2001. E/C.12/1/Add.62.
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Title Annotation:EQUALITY AND WOMEN'S ECONOMIC SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: A Guide to Implementation and Monitoring Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Publication:Equality and Women's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Article 5: Prohibition to destroy rights or freedoms.
Next Article:Article 7: The right to just and favorable conditions of work.

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