Workers’ organizations in Asia and the Pacific

Let our voice be heard. © ILO

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Trade union organizations are one of the three pillars of the ILO’s tripartite structure, alongside employers and Governments. Workers’ representatives engage in the International Labour Conference, the Governing Body and various fora and play a crucial role in discussions shaping ILO policies and programmes. Trade unions are also key partners in implementing Decent Work Country Programmes that guide ILO’s work in each country.

The Asia and the Pacific region faces multiple challenges with widening inequalities, frequent natural disasters, and the expanding informal economy. All of which cause decent work deficits. Trade unions in the region work collectively to promote international labour standards, especially relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining. They are also key actors enhancing gender equality, social protection, green jobs, child labour, and skills development and lifelong learning as well as safeguarding the rights of migrant workers and gig workers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, trade unions have taken action not only to assure safety in the workplace, the sustainability of jobs and enterprises, but to initiate social dialogue to launch national economic rescue programmes.

The world of work is undergoing rapid changes driven by advanced technologies, automation and digitalisation. Trade unions are also changing. While some unions face a decline in membership, others are growing. Digital training and online organizing offer great potential for trade unions to build capacity and reach out to more workers especially women, young workers, migrant workers and informal workers.

At national level the structure of trade union organizations varies from country to country, reflecting workers’ needs in different sectors and industries. There are two major regional trade union bodies. The International Trade Union Confederation - Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) was founded in September 2007 in Bengaluru, India and currently has 59 affiliates from 34 countries and territories in Asia and the Pacific. The World Federation of Trade Unions - Asia Pacific (WFTU-AP) is a regional umbrella organization of national trade unions throughout the region.