Social dialogue

What is Social Dialogue

Social dialogue is defined by the ILO to include all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. It can exist as a tripartite process, with the government as an official party to the dialogue or it may consist of bipartite relations only between labour and management (or trade unions and employers' organizations), with or without indirect government involvement. Social dialogue processes can be informal or institutionalised, and often it 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.

The main goal of social dialogue itself is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement among the main stakeholders in the world of work. 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.

The Enabling Conditions of Social Dialogue:

In order for social dialogue to take place, the following must exist:

  • Strong, independent workers' and employers' organizations with the technical capacity and the access to relevant information to participate in social dialogue;
  • Political will and commitment to engage in social dialogue on the part of all the parties;
  • Respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • and Appropriate institutional support.

The Role of the State in Social Dialogue

For social dialogue to work, the State cannot be passive even if it is not a direct actor in the process. It is responsible for creating a stable political and civil climate which enables autonomous employers' and workers' organizations to operate freely, without fear of reprisal. Even when the dominant relationships are formally bipartite, the State has a role in providing essential support for the process through the establishment of the legal, institutional and other frameworks which enable the parties to engage effectively.

Social Dialogue and the ILO

The ILO aims to assist member States in establishing or strengthening legal frameworks, institutions, machinery or processes for bipartite and tripartite social dialogue in member States. It also aims to promote social dialogue among member States and regional or subregional groupings as means of consensus building, economic and social development, and good governance.