International Labour Standards on Vocational guidance and training

Education and training are the key to making people employable, thereby allowing them to gain access to decent work and to escape poverty. To compete in today's global economy, workers and employers need to be especially well trained in information and communication technology, new forms of business organization, and the workings of the international market. Societies aiming to attain full employment and sustained economic growth therefore need to invest in education and human resources development. By providing basic education, core work skills, and lifelong learning opportunities for their entire working population, countries can help ensure that workers can maintain and improve their employability, resulting in a more skilled and productive workforce. Nevertheless, gaps in education and access to information technology persist between countries and within countries. ILO standards encourage countries to develop sound human resources practices and training policies which are beneficial to all the social partners. Because of the current importance of this topic, in 2004 the International Labour Conference adopted an updated Recommendation concerning Human Resources Development: Education, Training and Lifelong Learning (No. 195).

Selected relevant ILO instruments

  • Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140) - [ratifications]
    Requires ratifying states to formulate and apply a policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice and by stages as necessary, the granting of paid educational leave for the purpose of training at any level, general, social and civic education, and trade union education.
  • Human Resources Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142) - [ratifications]
    Requires ratifying states to develop policies and programmes of vocational guidance and vocational training, closely linked with employment, in particular through public employment services. For this purpose, states are further required to develop complementary systems of general, technical and vocational education, educational and vocational guidance and vocational training, and to extend them gradually to young persons and adults, including appropriate programmes for the disabled.
  • Further relevant instruments

Education and training in practice

By investing in human resources, enterprises can improve productivity and compete more successfully in world markets. One study has found that in Denmark, for instance, enterprises which combined production innovations with targeted training were more likely to report growth in output, jobs and labour productivity than companies that did not pursue such strategies. Studies on Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States reached similar conclusions. Training benefits not only the individual worker, but by increasing her or his productivity and skill level, the employer reaps the rewards as well. (Note 1)

Further information

  • General Survey concerning employment instruments in light of the 2008 Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2010) – [PDF]
  • General Survey on Human Resources Development (1991) - [PDF]
  • Skills and Employability Department (EMP/SKILLS)

Note 1 - ILO: Learning and training for work in the knowledge society, Report IV(1), International Labour Conference, Geneva, 91st Session, 2003, p. 4., see also World Bank: World Development Report, op. cit., pp. 137-140.