Antitrust as antidiscrimination: Labour markets and the gender wage gap

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Gender discrimination by the employer is prohibited in most countries under constitutional and/or employment laws, but nonetheless it persists and has even widened during the ongoing pandemic. Women often do not file lawsuits against their employers fearing retaliation and high costs of a long-drawn litigation, while those in the gig economy are excluded from the protective ambit of anti-discrimination laws. In this paper, we argue that antitrust can provide a better remedy to gender wage discrimination. We analyze the issue from an economic lens, and locate the causes of gender discrimination at work in the capacity of monopsonistic employers to exploit the vulnerability of female employees. Drawing on the recent (and ongoing) debate on the goals of antitrust law and its role in society, we argue that antitrust policy committed to gender equality would prohibit discriminatory wages as an abuse of dominant position, and would reformulate the existing antitrust prohibition on collective action with a view to securing a level playing field for women. While antitrust is not a panacea to the broader sociopolitical reality that leads to workplace discrimination, we argue that antitrust enforcement in labour markets can reduce the extent and frequency of wage discrimination at work.