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Workplace violence and harassment remain widespread as victims fear speaking up: survey

Photo: designer491/iStockphoto

Geneva — Nearly a quarter of workers worldwide have endured workplace violence or harassment, but only half of the victims discuss their experiences, results of a recent survey show.

Researchers from the International Labor Organization, Lloyd’s Register Foundation and management consulting company Gallup surveyed more than 74,000 workers in 121 countries and territories. Respondents discussed workplace exposure to physical, psychological, and sexual violence and harassment. Results show that 22.8% of the respondents experienced at least one form of violence or harassment. Of them, 31.8% indicated they faced multiple forms, while 6.3% said they had experienced all of them.

However, only 54.4% of the workers said they shared information about the experience with others, with women (61%) more likely than men (50%) to talk. Considering the exercise a “waste of time,” “fear for your reputation” and unclear work practices were the most common reasons for nondisclosure.

Additionally, a report on the survey results states that youth, migrant, and wage and salaried workers “were more likely to face violence and harassment at work.” Young women were twice as likely as young men to endure sexual violence and harassment, while migrant women were nearly twice as likely as non-migrant women to experience sexual violence or harassment.

“It’s painful to learn that people face violence and harassment not just once, but multiple times in their working lives,” Manuela Tomei, ILO assistant director-general for governance, rights and dialogue, said in a press release. “Psychological violence and harassment is the most prevalent across countries, and women are particularly exposed to sexual violence and harassment.

“This report tells us about the enormity of the task ahead to end violence and harassment in the world of work.”

To help mitigate workplace violence and harassment, the researchers recommend:
Increasing awareness. “Too many people are still afraid to speak up because of fear for their own reputation and fear of retaliation. Heightened awareness and knowledge are a first step in changing the perceptions and attitudes that perpetuate or condone various forms of violence and harassment.”
Extending or adapting prevention mechanisms. These include the use of labor inspection systems, as well as occupational safety and health policies and programs.
Regularly collecting more data on work-related violence and harassment. Examine national, regional and global levels to “inform prevention and remediation laws and mechanisms, policies and programs, as well as research and advocacy.”
Increasing capacities of institutions. This includes enhancing the authority of employers and worker organizations to “design and implement effective measures, as well as to provide support services to their members.”

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