The right to work is recognised by many legal orders as a fundamental right. Can the right to work be interpreted as a right for women to access any industrial sector/activity?

56. Labour collective of a big wool textile factory. Period of State Socialism, 1944-1989. Interactive Museum of Industry, Gabrovo, Bulgaria.


To be able to work and provide for a living is on the basis of the overall industrial construct. Can the right to work of some, impact on the right to work of others?

57. Painting of electrical product, factory ELECTRO PORTUGUESA LDA. 1947-1997. Teófilo Rego Archive, Casa da Imagem – Manuel Leão Foundation, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

The right to work is a social and economic right as it is regarded as a valuable activity which contributes to personal development and fulfilment.

The right to work, as defined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), prescribes the opportunity to work as well as the right to freely choose and accept work. The right to work is also protected by many other international, regional (including the EU), and national legal instruments.

One of the components of this (human) right it to freely choose and accept one’s own occupation, having a strong link with non-discrimination in terms of access to employment.
In this sense, equal opportunities for access to employment need to be safeguarded for all the workers during the hiring process.

The different translations of the right to work and the prohibition of discrimination include different grounds. The right to work cannot be denied or waived based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, family status, age, race, disability, language, ethnicity, or ancestry, among others.

For example, pregnancy or motherhood cannot constitute a reason for discriminating against women (e.g. the requirement that the worker provides a pregnancy test unless the position involves a hazardous activity with can negatively affect the foetus/ woman, for instance in certain industries.)