International labour standards in South Asia

Launch of Core Labour Standards Ratification Campaign Materials by NTU Leaders in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. 

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International labour standards (ILS) are legal instruments drawn up by ILO’s tripartite constituents (governments, employers and workers) that lay down principles, rights and minimum standards related to work and workplaces. These standards can be either Conventions, which are binding international treaties, or Recommendations, which are non-binding.

India has ratified 45 Conventions and one Protocol, of which 42 are in force. The ratified Conventions include four fundamental Conventions, three governance Conventions and 38 technical Conventions. International labour standards in India play an important role in creating a productive and equitable labour market and shaping national policy and development initiatives. The inherent principles of ILO Conventions are increasingly reflected in policies and regulations, and a number of national mechanisms are in place to support the implementation and ratification of Conventions, including a tripartite Committee on Conventions.

Critical challenges to the application of ILS stem from the informal nature of the Indian labour market. These include the need to strengthen labour law enforcement, payment of minimum wages, increasing use of casual or contract labour, poor working conditions, and low social security coverage.

The main focus of ILO’s work in India is on technical support related to the ratification of Conventions - especially the four unratified fundamental Conventions (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) and promotion and application of the principles underlying the ratified Conventions.

Key resources

  1. Introduction to International Labour Standards

    A brief introduction to what labour standards are, why they are needed, what their benefits are, the conventions and recommendations which pertain to these, how they are created and how they are used.

  2. NORMLEX: Information System on International Labour Standards

    NORMLEX is a new information system which brings together information on International Labour Standards (such as ratification information, reporting requirements, comments of the ILO's supervisory bodies, etc.) as well as national labour and social security laws.

  3. ILO Constitution

    The different ILO bodies, the functioning of the Conference, and the adoption and application of international labour standards are governed by the Constitution. The original ILO Constitution formed Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles (1919). Since that date it has been amended on six occasions, and has become a separate instrument. In 1944, the Conference adopted the Declaration of Philadelphia, which restated the fundamental aims and purposes of the ILO. The Declaration is annexed to and forms an integral part of the Constitution.