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Tripartite Meeting Calls for Study on Impact of Globalization on Agricultural Employment and Food Security


Press release | 27 September 1996


GENEVA (ILO News) - An international meeting on conditions of work and employment in agriculture has called upon the International Labour Organization to study the impact of globalization on the sector, the role of multinational enterprises in agriculture, the impact of trade liberalization on agricultural commodities and its consequences for employment, food security and food quality worldwide.

The call came at the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers, which concluded its work today. Delegations representing employers, governments and workers from 30 countries participated in the week-long meeting at ILO headquarters in Geneva.

The delegates also called for increased ratification and observance of fundamental labour standards dealing with collective bargaining, equal pay for equal work and the elimination of child labour.

In a Resolution concerning future ILO activities in the field of agriculture, the delegates cited progress that has been made in some countries' agricultural sectors, "particularly as regards growth, productivity, competitivity and improvements in working conditions."

They also resolved that "in the present situation of highly competitive markets, agriculture must adopt modern methods of production, be competitive and profitable" while stressing that "governments must create conditions conducive to enterprise development in order to stimulate employment."

The delegates noted that the number of agricultural wage workers was "rising in absolute terms and/or relative to the total agricultural labour force in a number of countries", and that "the number of women among them was on the rise in all regions."

They pointed out that "in countries with high levels of unemployment and underemployment, agricultural growth should aim to expand employment opportunities and raise productivity." Trade liberalization, they concluded, "can have positive and negative impacts on agricultural production and on working and living conditions of agricultural wage workers."

The delegates singled out free and voluntary collective bargaining regarding terms and conditions of employment and work between employers and workers" as often being "essential to improving the situation of agricultural wage labourers," and called upon Governments to "facilitate collective bargaining."

To improve the conditions of women workers "Governments should seek to adopt and enforce legislation pertaining to equal remuneration for work of equal value and to equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation." The delegates called for "education and training opportunities for women agricultural workers enabling them to upgrade their skills and seek higher employment opportunities."

Child labour, the delegates agreed, is detrimental to the health, education and physical development of children. Citing the importance of sustained economic growth and universal education for both boys and girls, they said that "The ultimate goal should be the complete elimination of all forms of child labour", while calling for "the immediate and unconditional abolition of the employment of children in slave-like and bonded conditions and in hazardous work."

They agreed that Governments should ratify the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery (Agriculture) Convention, 1951 (No. 99), which provides for joint determination of wages by employers' and workers' organizations or decided by the State, "in an appropriate form, after consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers". They also agreed that "Minimum wages should be periodically adjusted taking into account changes in the cost of living as well as other economic conditions to prevent increases in the levels of unemployment and inflation."

On occupational health and safety issues, the delegates concluded that "Governments should seek to periodically review and update legislation and regulations ... in agriculture." Along with improved information on potential risks to agricultural workers' health and safety, the delegates highlighted the need for "proper registration and labelling of chemical formulations." They said that "The labelling of products, in language, style and form, should be accessible to workers using the products in the fields. The cooperation of chemical manufacturers should be sought to facilitate this information. Regulations on the production, export and import of chemical formulations used in agriculture should be brought in line with international recommendations."

The Committee adopted a Resolution calling on all member States "to ratify and implement existing Conventions concerning fundamental human rights." Endnote

They also called on member States "to consider ratifying and implementing the following Conventions that are of particular significance to the agricultural sector: the Plantations Convention, 1958 (No. 110); the Rural Workers' Organizations Convention, 1975 (No. 141); the Right of Association (Agriculture) Convention, 1921 (No. 11); the Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129); the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery (Agriculture) Convention, 1851 (No. 99) and the Minimum Age (Agriculture) Convention, 1921 (No. 10); the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised) 1949 (No. 97); the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (no. 143)."

The ILO, founded in 1919, includes 174 member States.

Endnote :

The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87); the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98); the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29); the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105); the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100); the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No.111).