Equal Employment Policy for Women: Strategies for Implementation in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe

Equal Employment Policy for Women: Strategies for Implementation in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe

Equal Employment Policy for Women: Strategies for Implementation in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe

Equal Employment Policy for Women: Strategies for Implementation in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe

Excerpt

Equal employment policy for women stands at an historic juncture in the advanced industrial democracies. In Western Europe, a directive of the European Economic Community, effective August 1978, requires each of its nine member states to develop a policy instrument to further the equal treatment of women in the labor market. In Canada, a federal Human Rights Act went into effect March 1, 1978. It not only established a commission to handle complaints of discrimination but also introduced the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, making possible the adjustment upward of women's wages based on a comparison of the rates of pay for women who work in dissimilar jobs. This represents a radical departure from similar policy in other countries.

In Sweden and the United States, policies instituted in the 1960s to eliminate sex discrimination are undergoing serious attack and reassessment by supporters and opponents alike. The Swedish approach of coordinating selective and general labor market policies with collectively bargained contract rights has received its most serious challenge to date from the small but vocal Liberal party of the majority coalition in Parliament. This party has been the major force behind an anti-discrimination law enacted in early 1979. The law has been sharply criticized by both employers and employees, and receives only modest support from the Social Democratic party. It constitutes the first attempt to reform the labor market through a law opposed by these social partners.

United States policy, long based on legislation and its enforcement through the courts and administrative agencies, also is at a turning point. The 1979 Reorganization Act consolidated the enforcement of equal opportunity and equal pay under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Commission, moreover, is overhauling its processing of individual complaints through a newly developed rapid-processing system and is activating its powers to initiate complaints against major corporate offenders of the law through targeting what has been called "systemic" discrimination. Despite this move toward greater administrative efficiency, many believe that current and pending court decisions will establish precedents that strictly delimit what can be accomplished under existing legislation.

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