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ILO Mission & Objectives

Mission and objectives

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and
internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that
labour peace is essential to prosperity. Today, the ILO helps advance the creation of
decent work and the economic and working conditions that give working people and
business people a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress. Its tripartite structure
provides a unique platform for promoting decent work for all women and men . Its main
aims are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities,
enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.
The ILO has four strategic objectives
1. Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work
2. Create greater opportunities for women and men to decent employment and
3. Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all
4. Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue
In support of its goals, the ILO offers unmatched expertise and knowledge about the
world of work, acquired over more than 90 years of responding to the needs of people
everywhere for decent work, livelihoods and dignity. It serves its tripartite constituents and society as a whole - in a variety of ways, including:
1. Formulation of international policies and programmes to promote basic human
rights, improve working and living conditions, and enhance employment
2. Creation of international labour standards backed by a unique system to
supervise their application
3. An extensive programme of international technical cooperation formulated and
implemented in an active partnership with constituents, to help countries put
these policies into practice in an effective manner
4. Training, education and research activities to help advance all of these efforts

Rights at work
Achieving the goal of decent work in the globalized economy requires action at the
international level. The world community is responding to this challenge in part by
developing international legal instruments on trade, finance, environment, human rights
and labour. The ILO contributes to this legal framework by elaborating and promoting
international labour standards aimed at making sure that economic growth and
development go along with the creation of decent work. The ILO's unique tripartite
structure ensures that these standards are backed by governments, employers, and
workers alike. International labour standards therefore establish the basic minimum
social standards agreed upon by all actors in the global economy.

Introduction to International Labour Standards

Conventions and Recommendations

International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO's constituents
(governments, employers and workers) and set out basic principles and rights at work.
They are either conventions, which are legally binding international treaties that may be
ratified by Member States, or recommendations, which serve as non-binding guidelines.
In many cases, a convention establishes the basic principles to be implemented by
ratifying countries, while a related recommendation supplements the convention by
providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied. Recommendations can
also be autonomous, i.e. not linked to any convention.

Applying and promoting International Labour Standards

International labour standards are backed by a supervisory system that is unique at the
international level and helps ensure that countries implement the conventions they
ratify. The ILO regularly examines the application of standards in Member States and
points out areas where they could be better applied. If there are problems in the
application of standards, the ILO seeks to assist countries through social dialogue and
technical assistance.

Employment creation

Persistent poverty, increasing income inequality and slow job growth further
exacerbated by financial and economic crises and climate change are critical
constraints on economic and social progress. Promoting inclusive job-rich growth is a
central challenge for all countries today. With global unemployment at historically high
levels, there has never been a greater need to put employment at the centre of
economic and social policies. Even among those who work, the extent of poverty
underscores the need for a far greater number of productive and decent jobs.
The insufficient pace in creating decent work worldwide points to the need for greater
international coordination of macro-economic policies, as well as active labour market
policies at the national level.
The Global Employment Agenda The ILO identifies policies that help create and
maintain decent work and income policies that are formulated in a comprehensive
Global Employment Agenda worked out by the three ILO constituents - governments,
employers and workers.
The Agenda's main aim is to place employment at the heart of economic and social
policies. Consistent with the Millennium Development Goals , the Agenda seeks,
through the creation of productive employment, to better the lives of people who are
either unemployed or whose remuneration from work is inadequate to allow them and
their families to escape from poverty.
During the period 201015, the ILOs strategy for promoting full, productive and freely
chosen employment include the following key outcomes:
1. coordinated and coherent policies to generate inclusive job-rich growth
2. skills development policies to increase the employability of workers, the
competitiveness of enterprises and the inclusiveness of growth
3. policies and programmes to promote sustainable enterprises and

Social protection

Access to adequate social protection is recognized by International labour standards

and the UN as a basic right . It is also widely considered to be instrumental in promoting
human welfare and social consensus on a broad scale, and to be conducive to and
indispensable for fair growth, social stability and economic performance, contributing to
Today, only 20 per cent of the worlds population has adequate social security coverage,
and more than half lack any coverage at all. They face dangers in the workplace and
poor or non-existent pension and health insurance coverage. The situation reflects
levels of economic development, with fewer than 10 per cent of workers in leastdeveloped countries covered by social security. In middle-income countries, coverage
ranges from 20 to 60 per cent, while in most industrial nations, it is close to 100 per
Social Protection is one of the four strategic objectives of the Decent Work agenda that
define the core work of the ILO. Since its creation in 1919, ILO has actively promoted
policies and provided its Member States with tools and assistance aimed at improving
and expanding the coverage of social protection to all groups in society and to
improving working conditions and safety at work.
The ILO has set out three main objectives reflecting the three major dimensions
of social protection:

1. Extending the coverage and effectiveness of social security schemes

2. Promoting labour protection , which comprises decent conditions of work,
including wages, working time and occupational safety and health, essential
components of decent work
3. Working through dedicated programmes and activities to protect such vulnerable
groups as migrant workers and their families; and workers in the informal
economy. Moreover, the world of work's full potential will be used to respond to
the AIDS pandemic, focusing on enhancing tripartite constituents' capacity

The Social Protection Floor Initiative

Recognizing the importance of ensuring social protection for all, the United Nations
System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (UNCEB) adopted, in April 2009, the
Social Protection Floor Initiative , as one of the nine UN joint initiatives to cope with the
effects of the economic crisis. This initiative is co-led by the International Labour Office
and the World Health Organization and involves a group of 17 collaborating agencies,
including United Nations agencies and international financial institutions.
The Social Protection Floor approach promotes access to essential social security
transfers and social services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education,
food, housing, life and asset-savings information. It emphasizes the need to implement
comprehensive, coherent and coordinated social protection and employment policies to
guarantee services and social transfers across the life cycle, paying particular attention
to the vulnerable groups.

Social dialogue
Social dialogue plays a critical role in achieving the ILO's objective of advancing
opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of
freedom, equality, security and human dignity. Social dialogue includes all types of
negotiation, consultation and exchange of information between, or among,
representatives of governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest.
How social dialogue actually works varies from country to country and from region to
region. It can exist as a tripartite process, with the government as an official party to the
dialogue or it may consist of bipartite relations between labour and management, with or
without indirect government involvement. It can be informal or institutionalised, and
often is a combination of the two. It can take place at the national, regional or at
enterprise level. It can be inter-professional, sectoral or a combination of these.
Enabling the conditions of Social Dialogue
The ILO encourages tripartism within Member States by promoting social dialogue to
help design and implement national policies. Achieving fair terms of employment,
decent working conditions, and development for the benefit of all cannot be achieved
without the active involvement of workers, employers and governments, including a
broad-based effort by all of them. To encourage such an approach, one of the strategic
objectives of the ILO is to strengthen social dialogue among the tripartite constituents. It
helps governments, employers' and workers' organizations to establish sound labour
relations, adapt labour laws to meet changing economic and social needs and improve
labour administration.
Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve
important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social
and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress. Effective social
dialogue depends on:

Respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective


Strong, independent workers' and employers' organizations with the technical

capacity and knowledge required to participate in social dialogue

Political will and commitment to engage in social dialogue on the part of all

Appropriate institutional support

The ILO helps governments and employers and workers organizations establish sound
labour relations, adapt labour laws to changing economic and social circumstances and
improve labour administration. In supporting and reinforcing employers and workers
organizations, the ILO helps to create the conditions for effective dialogue with
governments and with each other.
Freedom of association
Effective dialogue implies the right freely to form and join groups for the promotion and
defence of their occupational interests. Freedom of association and collective
bargaining are among the founding principles of the ILO. Soon after the adoption of
Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining , the
ILO came to the conclusion that the principle of freedom of association needed a further
supervisory procedure to ensure compliance with it in countries that had not ratified the
relevant conventions. As a result, in 1951 the ILO set up the Committee on Freedom of
Association (CFA) for the purpose of examining complaints about violations of freedom
of association, whether or not the country concerned had ratified the relevant