Launch of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work
Credit: ILO via Flickr
In a new report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) proposes a “human-centred agenda for the future of work,” advocating bold action to reduce inequalities and uncertainties in employment by increasing education, training, and support programs; solidifying workers’ rights and protections; and, expanding investment in decent and sustainable work. See ILO, Work for a Brighter Future (2019). The report urges governments to seize opportunities presented by technology, the green economy, and demographic changes. Its key recommendations include instituting: a “universal labour guarantee” that includes a right to an adequate living wage regardless of employment situation; lifelong social protection; lifelong educational and training opportunities; gender equality initiatives; and new private investment incentives to benefit historically excluded or under protected workers. The report was prepared by ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and released on January 22, marking the beginning of ILO’s centenary year. [ILO Press Release] The report will be presented and debated at the Centenary International Labor Conference in June 2019. See ILO, Work for a Brighter Future. at 55.
The ILO report’s release came the day after the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights published new Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms to assist stakeholders in assessing the impact of economic policies and ensuring that these are anchored in human rights standards. [OHCHR] According to the Independent Expert, “The thrust of the Guiding Principles is that States cannot shy away from their human rights obligations in economic policy making at all times, even in times of economic crisis.” [OHCHR] Both publications reflect broader efforts at the international level to advance labor rights and the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights in a comprehensive manner that is centered in human rights. Read more
High level event on “Partnerships to End Forced Labour in Global Chains,” co-organized by the ILO
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Last week following the World Day against Child Labor, India ratified two International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions that seek to eliminate child labor, and Thailand ratified one ILO Convention that prohibits labor discrimination. [ILO Press Release: India; ILO Press Release: Thailand; UN News Centre] The first convention India ratified, the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), requires that States parties set a minimum age for children to work in any occupation and provides particular requirements for hazardous work. The second convention India ratified, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), requires that States parties take concrete steps to prevent child participation in the most harmful categories of labor, including slavery, forced labor, trafficking, child prostitution, and particularly hazardous work, among others. Thailand ratified the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) (Employment Discrimination Convention), which requires States parties to develop, promote, and practice national policies that ensure equal opportunity and treatment in employment.
All three conventions are included in the ILO’s eight fundamental conventions, which the ILO believes provide a framework for striving for the remaining rights at work. The ILO aims to achieve universal ratification of the fundamental conventions, and according to the ILO, only 129 ratifications are left to achieve that goal. See ILO, Conventions and Recommendations. Only six States have yet to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, which has accumulated ratifications at a rate faster than any other ILO Convention. [ILO Press Release: India] India has now ratified four of the eight fundamental conventions, and Thailand has ratified five of eight. See ILO, Ratifications of fundamental Conventions by country. Read more
General Assembly event celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
While celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the recently concluded sixteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), participants also discussed the particular issues that continue to affect indigenous populations around the globe, including land dispossession and violence. During the recent session, regional and universal intergovernmental bodies, such as the International Labor Organization and the European Union, as well as human rights experts presented reports and statements on the status of the rights of indigenous peoples to the UNPFII – an entity established in 2000 to provide recommendations on indigenous issues to UN agencies. Although the declaration promotes land rights, access to education, and fair working conditions, the continued need to protect these rights were common themes raised during the forum, including in the Secretariat of the forum’s report on implementation of the declaration. In particular, both at the UNPFII and in other recent statements, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, identified ongoing violence, arrests, land dispossession, denial of self-determination, a lack of consultation, and inadequate education and social services as just some of the continuing obstacles plaguing indigenous communities. [UN News Centre; OHCHR Press Release: United States; OHCHR Press Release: Australia] See also OHCHR, Statement of Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. As demonstrated in other recent reports, statements, and unfolding situations, recent incidents and trends around the globe – including in Australia, the United States, and Brazil, among others – reflect the concerns raised during the forum, particularly concerning violence against indigenous peoples and forced dispossession of land. [IJRC: Asia; IJRC: IACHR; Reuters; Guardian; All Africa] Read more
European Commission of the EU
Credit: Corentin Béchade
The European Commission, a body of the European Union, adopted a proposal to endorse the European Pillar of Social Rights that sets out 20 key principles and rights aimed at improving working and living conditions of persons within the EU, focusing specifically on labor markets and welfare systems. The principles and rights in the Pillar draw on already existing law in the region, both within the EU and the Council of Europe, and on legal instruments established through the United Nations. In particular, the Pillar draws on the 1989 Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, the European Social Charter, and the European Code of Social Security of the Council of Europe. The Pillar makes binding EU legal provisions more explicit and understandable for citizens and stakeholders, and expands on elements of already existing law, specifically as they relate to equal opportunities and access to the labor market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion. See European Commission, Commission Staff Working Document (2017), at 2-4. A scoreboard will monitor and assess the compliance of EU Member States with the principles of the Pillar. See European Commission, Scoreboard.
Supporting the idea that the social and economic realms of Europe are intertwined, the Pillar’s goal is to curb employment and social challenges in the current financial and economic context, including the challenges that arose from the economic crisis, such as long-term unemployment. See European Commission, Proposal for an Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights (2017), at 4. The Pillar will be presented as a European Commission Recommendation and as a proposal for joint proclamation by the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission in the EU. The Council of Europe, a separate regional intergovernmental organization to which all EU Member States are a party, has also shown its support for the Pillar. [COE Press Release] Read more
Thai fishing boat
Credit: SeaDave via Wikimedia Commons
The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently issued recommendations to Thailand to bring it in line with anti-slavery and forced labor provisions in the ILO Forced Labour Convention in response to allegations on the use of forced labor in the fishing industry, which has also been the topic of a lawsuit in the United States and of international pressure. [Guardian: Lawsuit; Guardian: ILO] Specifically, the submission to the ILO – referred to as a representation – alleged the forced labor and trafficking in persons of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and alleged that fishers are subject to 20-hour work days, non-payment of wages, debt bondage, physical abuse, and murder. See International Labour Office, Sixth Supplementary Report: Report of the Committee set up to examine the representation alleging non-observance by Thailand of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), made under article 24 of the ILO Constitution by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) (2017), paras. 1, 7, 10. Additionally, the representation argues that violations in Thailand are due to a “weak legislative framework, the lack of effective complaints mechanisms, and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement mechanisms.” See id. at para. 9. The ILO committee that was set up to examine the present representation recommended improving labor inspections and legal enforcement of existing legislation, preventing and punishing illegal recruitment processes, and addressing illegal employment practices. See id. at paras. 60-68, 71-77. The ILO Forced Labour Convention requires States parties to “undertake to suppress” forced labor and to enforce penalties for engaging in forced labor. Read more
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has identified trends in national policy in Asia that deny indigenous peoples certain rights, such as to property and to consultation, in a recent human rights-based review of the region’s domestic laws. See ILO, The right of indigenous peoples in Asia, Human rights-based overview of national legal and policy frameworks against the backdrop of country strategies for development and poverty reduction (2017). While an indigenous peoples’ movement has emerged in the region – where a majority of the world’s indigenous peoples live – the report found that national and regional institutions often fail to recognize their rights. See id. at 1, 9-10. Specifically, the report found inconsistent recognition of the status of indigenous peoples; inconsistent consultation between governments and indigenous communities; land and natural resource insecurity; and unequal access of indigenous populations to education, employment, and social services. See id. at pgs. 3, 9, 20, 21 27-28, 30, 40, 54-55. The States examined for the report – Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam – should, the report recommended, ensure increased coordination between indigenous communities and other domestic, regional, and international stakeholders. See id. at 59-61. This report complements a previous ILO report on the situation of indigenous peoples in the labor force in Asia and the Pacific in 2015. See ILO, Indigenous Peoples in the World of Work in Asia and the Pacific: A Status Report (2015).
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks before the ILO staff
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
The independent body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that supervises States’ compliance with ILO conventions has recently issued a report summarizing the status of labor rights and associated freedoms in 2015. See International Labour Office, Application of International Labour Standards 2016 (I) (2016), at 2. The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (Committee of Experts) reviewed 1,628 reports on States’ implementation of specific rights and obligations, including on forced labor, equal treatment, freedom of association, and employment security. Additionally, the report reviews the extent to which Member States’ have satisfied their duties to submit timely reports to the ILO and fulfill other requirements of the ILO Constitution. Id.
The Committee of Experts relies on and makes reference to various other international human rights instruments throughout its report in support of its observations. In the understanding that international labor standards and United Nations human rights treaties are “mutually reinforcing,” the Committee of Experts takes into consideration decisions made by treaty-based bodies of the United Nations and regularly provides information to these bodies about international labor standards. Id. at 31.
Cotton and textile industry worker
A new international agreement on modern slavery will enter into force in 2016, following ratifications by Niger and Norway. [UN News Centre] The Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 updates a 1930 treaty, including by addressing the increase of forced labor in the private sector and the vulnerabilities of workers in specific industries and at-risk groups, such as migrants. The Protocol also emphasizes States’ responsibilities to prevent forced labor and make available compensation and rehabilitation. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are approximately 21 million forced labor victims worldwide, who generate $150 billion USD annually in illicit profits. See ILO, Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Slavery. Read more
The opening session of the 104th International Labour Conference
Credit: Pouteau / Crozet
The General Conference of the International Labour Organization adopted Recommendation 204, which aims to promote the transition from informal to formal economies worldwide, on June 12, 2015 at the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference. See International Labour Conference, Recommendation 204, Concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, 104th Session, Geneva, 12 June 2015. The recommendation passed with 484 favorable votes, one opposing vote from a Malaysian delegate, and five abstentions. While the recommendation is not binding, its passage is considered historic, given that it is “the first ever international labor standard specifically aimed at tackling the informal economy.” It is hoped that as States implement this recommendation, hundreds of millions of workers and economic units will become formalized. The recommendation is also seen as an important step towards increasingly inclusive development, poverty eradication, and the reduction of inequality. [ILO Press Release: Labour Standard]