The first attempt to survey the extent of violence and harassment at work around the globe has found that workplace abuse is widespread, and particularly pronounced among young people, migrants, and wage earners, especially women.

More than 22 per cent of the nearly 75,000 workers in 121 countries surveyed last year reported having experienced at least one type of violence or harassment, according to the report released Monday by the UN International Labour Organization, the Lloyds Register Foundation and Gallup.

“Violence and harassment in the world of work is a pervasive and harmful phenomenon, with profound and costly effects ranging from severe physical and mental health consequences to lost earnings and destroyed career paths to economic losses for workplaces and societies,” the three organizations said in the 56-page report.

According to the findings, one-third of the people who experienced violence or harassment at work said they had experienced more than one form — and 6.3 per cent said they had faced all three forms: physical, psychological, and sexual violence and harassment during their working life.

Common types of threats

Psychological violence and harassment was the most common form, reported by both men and women, with 17.9 per cent of workers experiencing it at some point during their employment, the report said.

Some 8.5 per cent of those surveyed said they experienced physical violence and harassment at work, with men more likely than women, the report said, and some 6.3 per cent experienced sexual violence and harassment, 8.2 per cent of them women and 5 per cent of them men.

More than 60 per cent of the victims of violence and harassment at work “said it has happened to them multiple times, and for the majority of them, the last incident took place within the last five years,” according to the report.

The research also found that people who experienced discrimination at some point in their life based on gender, disability status, nationality, ethnicity, skin color or religion were more likely to experience violence or harassment at work than those who didn't face such discrimination.

Sporadic statistics

The three organizations said “statistics on violence and harassment in the world of work are sporadic and scarce” so the ILO joined forces with Lloyd's and Gallup to carry out “the first global exploratory exercise to measure people's own experiences.”

The survey used data from the 2021 Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll, which was part of the Gallup World Poll. The results pave the way for further research, the organizations said.

“Ultimately, stronger evidence will help forge more effective legislation, policies and practices that promote prevention measures, tackle specific risk factions and root causes, and ensure that victims are not left alone in handling these unacceptable occurrences,” the ILO, Lloyds and Gallup said.