Chapter 2: How many different minimum wage rates should there be

2.4 Equal remuneration for work of equal value

Some countries set lower minimum wage rates for some groups of workers, such as young workers or persons with disabilities. Different minimum wages by sector or occupation can also result, indirectly, in lower minimum wages for workers with different characteristics, for example when rates are lower in occupation or sectors where women or migrant workers predominate.

When setting different minimum wages, the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value should be respected.

The Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) states the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value. Paragraph 2(a) of the Equal Remuneration Recommendation, 1951 (No. 90), calls for the application, as rapidly as practicable, of this principle in establishing minimum or other wage rates in industries and services where such rates are determined under public authority.

Convention No. 111 is broader in scope and aims to eliminate all discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, whether based on sex, race, colour, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, or any other criterion determined by States parties to the Convention.

Equal pay for work of equal value

The principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, as set out in the Preamble to the ILO Constitution, is not the same as equal pay for equal work. Equal pay for equal work limits the application of the equal pay principle to work undertaken by two individuals in the same area of activity and in the same enterprise.

The concept of equal remuneration for work of equal value is broader and encompasses cases where men and women do different work. In order to determine whether different types of work have the same value, they can be assessed through a job evaluation method (see the ILO Equal Pay – An introductory guide for a detailed description).

For example, some of the jobs that have been compared in the context of evaluating equal pay for work of equal value include: caterers and cleaners (mostly women) with gardeners and drivers (mostly men); social affairs managers (mostly women) with engineers (mostly men); and flight attendants (mostly women) with pilots and mechanics (mostly men).

Minimum wages in sectors or occupations where women predominate are often lower than those of men. This can partly be explained by their lack of representation in bargaining processes, but also by societal norms and the tendency to undervalue women’s work.1

1 ILO General Survey on minimum wage systems (2014)