ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations
ILO-en-strap

Bangkok  December 1997

Twelfth Asian Regional Meeting

Report of the Director-General



THE ILO RESPONSE

III

This chapter of the Report is divided into two main sections. The first deals with the introduction of the active partnership policy, changes in the ILO's regional structure since 1993, and recent trends in technical cooperation. The second covers specific ILO activities in the Asia-Pacific region and the West Asian Arab States within the new structure.

The changing ILO structure

The active partnership policy

The ILO's response to the worldwide changes outlined earlier in this Report, as well as the changes in the United Nations system, was the development and implementation of the active partnership policy (APP). This implies closer attention to the priorities, objectives and needs of the ILO's constituents. Greater concentration on the ILO means of action, both normative and technical, and a multidisciplinary approach were introduced in order to meet the needs of the constituents, as well as to defend and pursue ILO values and principles.

The APP is the result of an extensive process of internal review and reappraisal of the ILO's objectives: operational activities; current work programme priorities; relationship and interaction between major means of action; relations with constituents; organizational structure; working modalities; personnel policies and administrative procedures.

At the conceptual stage, three major factors contributed to the formulation of the new policy. First, the major donors and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had proposed national execution, with the transfer of responsibilities for the implementation and management of operational activities to recipient member States. Within that perspective, the role of most of the specialized agencies would be to increase their analytical capacity, and to help countries define strategies and conceive programmes. The ILO would act as an executing agency only when member States requested it to do so. Second, most countries, including many of those requesting cooperation, had developed democratic political regimes and were in favour of a market economy. In such conditions, national authorities were called upon to take rapid decisions in an environment that was much more fluid than before. The constituents needed to be convinced of the ILO's capability of responding quickly to their needs, by helping them build institutions and train individuals to manage those new choices. The third factor was the change in orientation of the market and international competition in the field of technical cooperation. As there would be no "institutional" place guaranteed for the ILO, it was extremely important to define its role clearly and to improve the quality of its services. The new environment, therefore, called for the need to:

Decentralization and restructuring at the field level

The APP aims to bring the Organization closer to its tripartite constituents in member States and to enhance the coherence and quality of the technical services within its mandate. Towards that end the Office was reorganized, with decentralization and the creation of new structures. ILO Offices were given more responsibilities and resources, while globally 14 multidisciplinary advisory teams (MDTs) were set up.

As mentioned in Chapter I, the Asia-Pacific region presents special challenges to the effectiveness of ILO action. Of all the ILO regions it has by far the largest total population and the greatest number of people living in poverty. It covers countries which are exceptionally diverse in terms of size, level of development and rate of growth. In contrast, the number of ILO member States is relatively small. The ILO structure to serve constituents in this large and diverse region is the Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific. This includes the Regional Office, nine ILO Offices based in Bangkok, Beijing, Colombo, Dhaka, Islamabad, Jakarta, Manila, New Delhi and Suva, an ILO Branch Office in Tokyo and a Senior ILO Adviser's Office in Kathmandu. In addition, three MDTs were set up, covering East Asia, South Asia, and South-East Asia and the Pacific.

The East Asia Multidisciplinary Advisory Team, with 18 specialists, is located in Bangkok and is responsible for providing technical services to Cambodia, China, the Republic of Korea, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. The South Asia Multidisciplinary Advisory Team, based in New Delhi, is composed of 13 specialists. Its coverage includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team, based in Manila, provides technical services to Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and the island countries of the South Pacific. It includes five specialists.

The Regional Office for the Arab States, together with the Arab Regional Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (ARMAT), fully resumed its operations in Beirut in 1995. ILO operations also returned to Kuwait after a brief absence. Furthermore, in the light of new developments in the occupied Arab territories, the Regional Office for the Arab States assumed the responsibility for ILO assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. ARMAT, with nine specialists, is located in Beirut and covers Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen.

Through the MDTs, technical expertise has been brought closer to the constituents. The availability in the subregions of specialists covering employment, labour and social issues provides the MDTs with the capacity to analyse socioeconomic problems in a comprehensive and integrated manner. Technical backstopping can now, for the most part, be provided from the regions and subregions. Needless to say, whenever necessary, inputs would also be forthcoming from Headquarters technical departments.

The primary responsibility for ILO programmes and activities in a country was assigned to the Director of the ILO Office responsible for that country. The Directors' mandate is to represent the ILO, maintain relations with its tripartite constituents, and promote its principles and objectives. A key responsibility of the ILO Office Directors, and an essential element in the APP, is the identification of needs and priorities in the countries they cover and the establishment of ILO country objectives (see below). They are also responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of ILO activities in the country or countries they cover.

The Regional Directors have responsibility for promoting the ILO's objectives and implementing its policies, maintaining relations with the tripartite constituents and overseeing ILO activities in the region as a whole. Both the Regional Office for Asia and Pacific and the Regional Office for the Arab States reoriented their activities and responded in several ways. The service functions of the Office were reinforced and directed at assisting the new structure. Financial decentralization and installation of computer networks became priorities, in addition to personnel, relations and programming support. Coordination arrangements were strengthened through ILO Office and MDT Directors' meetings, programming workshops and a variety of other arrangements. Although some of these activities existed before the APP, they were reoriented. The Regional Offices became a focus for coordination, support activities and management of organizational change.

Following the resolution on technical cooperation adopted by the 80th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1993, the Office's technical cooperation strategy was endorsed by the Technical Cooperation Committee of the Governing Body in 1994. Three key elements of that strategy were strengthening national capacity (especially of the ILO's tripartite constituents), improving the delivery system of the ILO and pursuing an effective resource mobilization strategy. The guiding principles were that technical cooperation should be demand driven, should promote the values enshrined in international labour standards, and should focus on the ILO's comparative advantage. For the coming period, programmes were to concentrate on three major objectives: democratization, poverty reduction and employment promotion, and workers' protection.

The policy was intended to cover not just technical cooperation in the traditional sense, but also the integrated use of the different instruments of action available to the ILO in pursuit of the objectives jointly developed with the tripartite constituents in each country. A major element of the APP, and the principal link between identified needs in the countries concerned, including the promotion of ILO values and technical cooperation, is the formulation of coherent country objectives (COs). The process involves a joint exercise by the ILO and the tripartite constituents in identifying national labour and social development priorities in areas of ILO expertise, determining the objectives to be attained during a specified time-frame, and defining the strategies and action programmes to be undertaken. In Asia and the Pacific, COs have already been established in 11 countries (Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, the Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam) and work is under way in other countries. In West Asia, they have been formulated for Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, and the West Bank and Gaza.

Technical cooperation

ILO action in Asia and the Pacific during the introduction of the APP was strongly affected by developments in technical cooperation. For the ILO as a whole, the growth recorded between 1986 and 1991 was halted and reversed from 1992. Table 7 shows the decline between 1991 and 1996 for Asia and the Pacific, and globally. The greater part of the ILO's technical cooperation programme has traditionally been funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but from 1993 it was overtaken by the trust fund programme. Even when expenditure by the UNDP and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is combined, ILO global total expenditure is still lower than that for the trust fund programme in 1994-96.

Expenditure in the Asia-Pacific region reflected the overall pattern. As can be seen from table 7, except for a slight increase in 1993, technical cooperation expenditure dropped from US$43 million in 1991 to US$24.7 million in 1996. None the less, the region's share of expenditure has not shown major fluctuations over the period under review, averaging 25.5 per cent of the global total per annum. The rate of decline slowed down in 1994-95 but rose once more in 1996. Table 7 also shows the decline in the UNDP's contribution from 1992 onwards: by 1994 funds from this source accounted for less than half the programme, and it was overtaken by the trust fund programme in 1995. By 1996 expenditure on the UNDP programme represented just about 36 per cent of the programme, while trust funds accounted for 57 per cent.

Table 7. Asia and the Pacific: Technical cooperation expenditure,
by source of funding, 1991-96

(US$'000, with % of total in brackets)
 

Source

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

22 895
(53.2)

23 782
(59.3)

22 357
(54.1)

13 785
(48.0)

11 041
(39.0)

8 852
(35.8)

Trust funds and multibilateral funds

13 479
(31.3)

12 127
(30.2)

13 660
(33.0)

12 430
(43.3)

14 199
(50.2)

14 182
(57.3)

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

2 101
(4.9)

1 058
(2.6)

1 012
(2.4)

429
(1.5)

486
(1.7)

610
(2.5)

ILO regular budget

4 547
(10.6)

3 167
(7.9)

4 331
(10.5)

2 079
(7.2)

2 561
(9.1)

1 0891
(4.4)

Total

43 022

40 134

41 360

28 723

28 287

24 733

% annual rate of growth (or decline, in brackets)

13.5

(6.7)

3.1

(30.6)

(1.5)

(12.6)

ILO global technical cooperation expenditure

169 877

163 550

148 670

113 631

112 930

98 167

% share of Asia and the Pacific in ILO global expenditure under all technical cooperation programmes

25.3

24.5

27.8

25.3

25.0

25.2

1 The sharp drop in regular budget funding in 1996 was due to the financial uncertainty of the ILO and restructuring of the Organization.

Table 8 shows technical cooperation expenditure in West Asia from 1992 to 1996. Again, a similar situation prevailed. While the total annual expenditure fluctuated during the period under review, the share of trust funds increased considerably between 1994 and 1996. In 1996 approximately 75 per cent of expenditure in the region was on employment and training programmes. It is also significant that the level of approvals increased almost four times, from US$1.2 million in 1994 to US$4.5 million in 1995. This high level was maintained in 1996.

Table 8. West Asia: Technical cooperation expenditure,
by source of funding, 1992-96
(US$'000)

Source

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

2 029

1 011

942

1 406

1 100

Trust funds and multibilateral funds

3

154

126

587

984

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

46

(33)

-

13

-

ILO regular budget

405

1 120

341

689

541

Total

2 483

2 252

1 409

2 695

2 625

One of the notable features of technical cooperation in West Asia during the period under review was the launching of substantive assistance in the West Bank and Gaza. Since 1994, technical co-operation projects totalling almost US$9 million have been set up, including the establishment of a Department of Labour, programmes for vocational rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-detainees and workers with disabilities, employment creation, small enterprise pro-motion, contractor training, and support for chambers of commerce and trade unions. The ILO has provided, from its regular budget, over US$1.2 million since the beginning of 1994 for the development of technical assistance programmes for the West Bank and Gaza. In addition to securing financial resources for the projects indicated above, the Office played an active role in mobilizing approximately US$15 million for activities carried out directly by the Palestinian authorities.

In terms of the technical content of the programme in Asia and the Pacific, approximately 40 per cent was spent on employment, training and enterprise development in 1996. In that year, working conditions and the environment continued to be an important area of activity, on which 17.6 per cent of the expenditure for the region was recorded. Table 9 shows the breakdown of expenditure by major technical field for the period under reviewThe level of approvals of technical cooperation programmes fluctuates quite significantly from year to year. However, between 1991 and 1994 the sustained decline was cause for concern in the overall programme. There was an upturn in the level of overall approvals in 1995 which was continued in 1996. In the Asia and Pacific region the average level of approvals per annum was US$23.2 million for the period under review, compared with an average of US$35.7 million for 1986-90. Given the time lag for the reflection of approval levels in expenditure figures, the size of the programme will not return to the levels of 1986-90 in the short term. With a concerted resource mobilization effort in the near future, it is hoped that the programme will expand to earlier levels in the medium term.

Table 9. Asia and the Pacific: Technical cooperation expenditure,
by major technical field, 1991-96
(percentages)

Technical field

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Employment and development 1

23.5

24.4

24.0

7.4

8.7

21.7

Enterprise development

19.1

20.6

13.7

8.8

6.8

18.1

Training

19.6

17.9

16.1

16.2

11.0

-

Industrial relations and labour administration

5.7

5.8

3.7

3.5

4.3

5.9

Working conditions and environment

8.2

6.2

9.4

13.4

19.3

17.6

Sectoral activities

10.6

9.8

5.2

5.7

2.5

0.4

Social security

3.5

3.7

2.1

2.6

1.6

2.4

Others 2

9.8

11.6

25.8

42.4

45.8

33.9

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

(US$'000)

(43 022)

(40 134)

(41 360)

(28 723)

(28 287)

(24 733)

1 From 1996 figures reflect the merger of the employment and training departments. Until 1993 they include the Employment Intensive Development Programme. From 1994 a significant portion of the "others" category pertains to that programme. 2 Employers' and workers' organizations, international labour standards, equality of rights, activities under DECOTEC, DEVCOTEC (from 1994) and POL/DEV (from 1996).

ILO activities

ILO activities in Asia and the Pacific and in the Arab States were carried out by the MDTs and ILO Offices, as well as under regional or intercountry projects. Headquarters departments also initiated or supported a number of programmes. Collaborative actions were designed in flexible ways to meet the needs of ILO constituents. These activities are presented under various subject areas. The selected examples included here give a good idea of the range and scope of the ILO's work in the region.

Employment promotion and poverty alleviation

The liberalization policies and economic reforms pursued by Asian countries have formed the basis for many ILO activities. Employment policies and programmes comprising both macro-economic policies and micro interventions to alleviate poverty, pro-mote employment generation as an autonomous goal, and develop policy ideas for mitigating the adverse effects of the reform process on employment have been the core concerns. Country and inter-country activities on labour market policies focus on the need to re-examine such policies in conjunction with other reform measures so that socially desirable and economically feasible adjustment measures can be identified.

A regional programme covering a number of countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam) aims to strengthen the capacity of the social partners to formulate and imple-ment effective employment strategies in the context of globalization and liberalization. The ILO's component of the UNDP Regional Poverty Alleviation Programme is being implemented in ten Asian countries. Country and synthesis studies were discussed at a tripar-tite workshop in February 1997. Guidelines will be formulated to assist governments in drawing up poverty alleviation policies and programmes.

In South Asia advisory services have covered employment policies, including reports on specific sectors (the informal sector, rural industry, small enterprise development, cooperatives) and issues such as the employment effects of structural reforms, and macro-level policies to ensure that growth is accompanied by employment. Examples include the recent work on employment strategy in Nepal through the implementation of a UNDP-funded programme and through the United Nations ACC Task Force Employment Strategy Review, and current work on employment generation in the non-formal sector in Bangladesh, on rural industrialization in India, and on the formulation of an employment strategy for Pakistan. Schemes for employment generation and capacity building in labour-intensive infrastructure have been developed, such as the project on irrigation and rural road construction funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Nepal. Strategies and action plans for the cooperative sector have been formulated in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In the field of labour market policies the ILO has given direct advice in South Asia on wage policies, the labour market implications of privatization and industrial restructuring, the problems of labour redundancy, and the need to reconcile adequate labour protection with labour market flexibility. A report on economic reforms and labour policies in India, recently discussed at a national tripartite workshop, attracted considerable attention worldwide. A study was carried out in Pakistan on the implications of privatization for employment and social protection.

In South-East Asia the ILO assisted the Government of Indonesia in developing policies for employment creation and poverty alleviation during its current five-year development plan. In eastern Indonesia (South Sulawesi), a study undertaken in close consultation with the tripartite constituents is focusing on skills development, small enter-prise development and the labour market. The ILO also worked with the Government of the Philippines to produce the Comprehensive Employment Strategy Plan. Pilot action programmes were carried out on different aspects of the urban informal sector. A current UNDP-funded project is aimed at self-sustainability in the cooperative sector. Also in the Philippines the ILO conducted a feasibility study for business registration centres offering a package of services, and this concept is now being implemented by the local authorities. In both Indonesia and the Philippines the ILO assisted governments in developing an action agenda to improve productivity, with the active collaboration of trade unions and employers' organizations.

As part of the ILO's interdepartmental project on the urban informal sector in three cities around the world, activities were undertaken in Metro Manila during 1995-96 with a view to improving working conditions, productivity and incomes in that sector. Assess-ment studies were combined with specific action programmes, with the involvement of the social partners, local authorities, self-help organizations and other NGOs. Employers' organizations took an active part in several activities. Other programmes involved women's childcare responsibilities, and the problems faced by persons with disabilities. Action programmes demonstrated that it is possible to improve the working environment and the safety of workers in the informal sector while enhancing productivity and incomes.

In the South Pacific island countries employment promotion and HRD through integrated small-enterprise development programmes have been launched in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The ILO assisted the Government of Papua New Guinea in developing a national employment plan through an Employment Summit in 1994, and in strengthening the capacity of the Small Business Development Corporation. Assistance was also provided to the Government of Fiji for a major employment creation initiative through the promotion of cooperatives and SMEs.

In East Asia the previous command economies -- Cambodia, China, the Lao PDR, Mongolia and Viet Nam -- are reforming their structures to adopt free-market policies, while most countries in the region are also experiencing rapid globalization, as typified by Thailand. Employment policy has to take account of these diversities and commonalities. Advisory services were provided to several countries in the formulation of national employment policies. In Cambodia the ILO contributed a chapter on employment and poverty for the First Socio-Economic Plan; in China it participated in three seminars on the Government's National Employment Law; and in Viet Nam it took part in a seminar on the Government's Employment Promotion Programme for 1996-2000. The work built upon the results of a paper, Transition, the Asian way, which looked at the experiences of reform in Cambodia, China, the Lao PDR, Mongolia and Viet Nam. This work was followed up by studies of the globalization process in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Viet Nam.

National and regional ILO projects have provided services in the areas of enterprise development, employment policy and labour market analysis, with UNDP financing. Advisory services were pro-vided to China on urban employment promotion (box 1). A study was prepared by the ILO on labour market issues in the Lao PDR with technical assistance by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

 

Box 1.
Employment promotion: ILO activities in China

Employment promotion continues to be one of the main concerns of the Chinese Government. The ILO has supported these efforts through several activities, including seminars and advisory services on the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), and on the draft Employment Promotion Law in 1996. Based on a study on urban employment promotion, a UNDP-funded project was developed which was designed to strengthen the Ministry of Labour's Re-employment Project. Under a Japanese-funded inter-regional project on strategic approaches towards employment promotion, community-based special employment creation schemes have been established in poverty-stricken areas of China in an effort to alleviate rural poverty.

A major event in 1997 was the High-Level Seminar on Urban Employment and Macro-Economic Policies, jointly organized by the Ministry of Labour, the ILO, the UNDP and the World Bank. It focused on employment policies and labour markets in countries in transition, and on the links between national macro-economic policy and urban employment in China. This represented the first initiative within the framework of the United Nations system's thematic Working Group on Rural and Urban Employment Strategies established for China in 1996. In view of its role as lead agency of the United Nations ACC Task Force on Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods, the ILO was designated lead agency for this working group. Its objective is to develop a United Nations system response and to provide support to employment initiatives and strategies launched by the Chinese Government as a follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development.

At the June 1997 Session of the International Labour Conference, the Government of China confirmed that ratification of Convention No. 122 had been approved.

At the field level, Cambodia provides an excellent example of the ILO's efforts, through technical cooperation activities, to generate productive employment and alleviate poverty (box 2). This model programme has helped pave the way for ILO work in other fields, such as the development of tripartite structures and labour administration. There has been much demand for vocational training, which serves to complement work in other fields. China, Cambodia, the Lao PDR and Mongolia have all benefited from projects and services in this area. In the same field, the ILO is implementing an ADB-funded project on cooperation in employment promotion and training in the Greater Mekong subregion.

 

Box 2.
Employment and reconstruction in Cambodia:
An integrated approach

The ILO's UNDP-supported integrated Employment Generation Programme (EGP) provides important lessons for grass-roots poverty alleviation in a war-torn economy. The three components of the programme labour-based infrastructure rehabilitation, the promotion of small enterprises and the informal sector, and vocational training have created a synergy for long-term development.

The labour-based infrastructure rehabilitation project has provided employment to unskilled persons of target communities, while the small enterprises and informal sector project and the vocational training project have enhanced skills development through training and credit. With limited opportunities for wage employment in rural areas, most of the vocational training is linked to self-employment and small-scale enterprises.

Since its inception in January 1993 the EGP has recorded impressive results. More than 4,500 persons 67 per cent of whom were women received small-business training. Some 3,200 trainees started or expanded their businesses, more than 11,000 women received credit, and US$555,000 was disbursed in loans, with a recovery rate of 96 per cent. The vocational training project provided wide-ranging skills as diverse as mushroom growing and building construction to 4,900 persons, 42 per cent of whom were women. The labour-based infrastructure rehabilitation project generated over 2.1 million work-days, built 450 km of rural roads and improved major sections of irrigated land. Among the spin-off benefits were increased access to markets, improved water storage facilities, expanded irrigation coverage and better access to social services.

In West Asia a new generation of projects on employment policies and labour market information is expected to contribute to employment and labour market policies which support socio-economic growth and diversification. Some projects have already started (Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen), while others are still in the pipeline (Jordan, Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic). These projects are expected to help strengthen the institutional capacity and technical capabilities of national staff in the ministries of labour and social affairs and to establish a policy framework fostering decision-making, entrepreneurship and the creation of new employment opportunities.

In preparation for the World Summit for Social Development, a number of activities related to poverty alleviation were undertaken. Analytical papers, prepared for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen and the occupied Arab territories, focused on the problems and the determinants of poverty and the design of corresponding indicators. These were discussed in a regional seminar organized jointly by the ILO and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) with a view to proposing a regional plan of action to the World Summit. An ILO/ESCWA expert group meeting was held in late 1995 to examine various poverty alleviation strategies.

In an effort to assist the social partners in coping with the negative implications of economic reform programmes, two major regional seminars were organized jointly by the ILO, the Arab Labour Organization (ALO) and the UNDP. Priority concerns were to improve economic management and sustainability and to protect employment and incomes, in addition to creating new job opportunities. One seminar was devoted to the design of a conceptual framework for regional and country-level programmes, as well as the identification of priority projects for employment promotion in selected countries. The seminars recommended a set of policy actions to mitigate the effects of a rise in unemployment and poverty.

Future activities in the Arab States will be geared towards enhancing the capacity of ILO constituents to contribute to long-term sustainable growth through the design and implementation of policies and strategies on employment creation, labour market monitoring, the eradication of poverty, and the identification of support for vulnerable groups. Of equal concern are the expansion of wage-employment opportunities for women and their further integration into the broader development process. Special attention will also be paid to the issues of youth employment, rural employment and migrant workers (see "Migrant workers", below).

Women workers

ILO action on behalf of women workers in Asia and the Pacific and in West Asia has focused on follow-up to the Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Priority has been given to capacity building regarding gender issues in the world of work, with a focus on education and training in legal reforms, awareness raising on women's rights, and equality of opportunity and treatment. In addition to the employment creation programmes referred to above, many of which benefit women workers, an increasing number of ongoing and planned programmes and projects are targeting women (box 3). Project analysis and planning are also becoming more gender responsive.

 

Box 3.
Savings and credit scheme for rural women in Pakistan

The Marvi Welfare Association in the village of Arab Solangi is the first all-female community-based organization (CBO) registered in the district of Khairpur, Sindh Province, Pakistan. Created in 1993 by a few young women, its membership has grown to 128 with the support of the NGO Resource Centre of the Aga Khan Foundation.

The CBO adopted the savings and credit strategy for employment creation, introduced in 1994 by the ILO/Japan inter-country project on employment promotion (PEP). This has resulted in savings exceeding Rs62,000 (US$1,550), qualifying the CBO for "matching funds" of Rs166,000 (US$4,150) from the project. After receiving training in savings and credit management, in addition to skills development support, democratically elected CBO officials now maintain accounts and administer loans. So far they have distributed 86 loans totalling Rs513,400 (US$12,835), which means that the initial capital has revolved about twice in two years. A survey of the first borrowers shows that after just one year the total household income had risen by more than 41 per cent. In Arab Solangi the dirt lanes between mud houses have been drained and paved, a play and sports ground created, and a girls' school opened by the CBO. Twenty-three other villages in Khairpur have adopted the project strategy, generating employment for 1,150 additional poor women and men.

Through 26 other pilot schemes all over Pakistan, some 3,300 jobs and a self-sustaining system of employment generation have been created. The model is ready for replication nationwide.

In China a seminar on equality and women workers' rights organized in 1996 was designed to raise awareness of international labour standards. Major policy reviews carried out in Indonesia and the Philippines in 1993-95 identified barriers to equality of opportunity and treatment, and made recommendations for action. In the Philippines the ILO provided support for workshops on combating sexual harassment in the workplace. A training module was developed to introduce legal mechanisms and counselling techniques. In Fiji and Papua New Guinea ILO/UNDP reviews of equality and protection of women workers in the formal sector were completed and will serve as the basis for policy-making and future action. In Malaysia a study of policies and strategies to improve women's labour market participation and employment status will provide inputs to the Seventh Malaysia Plan, while in Mongolia the first workshop of its kind on women's employment was held in 1996. Poverty alleviation programmes in Nepal have focused on rural women. In Pakistan a significant focus is placed on women's employment, culminating in two projects to be funded by the UNDP. In Sri Lanka the ILO's support to female entrepreneurs involved strengthening local institutions to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among women. Activities were also undertaken in favour of women migrants, as mentioned below.

Among the many seminars and workshops organized were an ILO/Japan Asian Regional Tripartite Workshop on Women's Employ-ent Assistance, held in 1996, which identified constraints to women's access to training and employment, outlined an action strategy and proposed an informal network for governments, the social partners and other concerned organizations. Under the ILO Interdepartmental Project on the Environment and the World of Work, programmes on health, the environment and empowerment were held in the Philippines for women in government, trade unions and NGOs.Other activities under this project covered female agricultural workers and women in indigenous communities.

A Japan-funded Asian Regional Programme for Expansion of Employment Opportunities for Women, begun in 1997, will initially concentrate on two countries, Indonesia and Nepal. The main objectives are the promotion of entrepreneurship and micro-enterprise development through community-based income-generating activities, and legal literacy training and awareness raising. National strategies will be planned to suit the specific priorities in each country.

In West Asia efforts were continued to foster the establishment of national institutional machinery on equal opportunities, by contributing to gender sensitization among the tripartite partners. The ILO also encouraged the adoption of national strategies for training and career development among women, equal pay for work of equal value, fair conditions of work and social protection. In 1995 the ILO organized a regional seminar jointly with the ALO in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Technical cooperation programmes on women workers will be launched as a result.

Other projects with a major impact on women are referred to under "Human resource development", "Employers' and workers' activities", and "Working conditions".

Migrant workers

International labour migration within Asia and the Pacific has accelerated along with the structural changes taking place in the region, while the flow of migrants to the Middle East has continued to be large. A substantial share of intra-Asian labour migration is believed to be undocumented or irregular. At the same time, migration has been associated with a number of problems affecting the conditions of work and the protection of migrant workers. The most vulnerable groups are undocumented workers, female domestic helpers and entertainers. High priority has, therefore, been given to strengthening the arrangements and institutions charged with the welfare and protection of migrants.

ILO activities have been based on principles laid down in the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143). Advisory services have been provided to several countries and concerned NGOs. Country objectives for the Philippines and Indonesia have identified labour migration as a priority area. The MDTs have carried out in-depth studies of structural changes and migration pressures and related policy issues in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. As part of the Greater Mekong subregional project and training referred to above, reviews have been carried out of migration trends and female labour migration, and of prospects for skilled labour migration flows. A regional programme to improve the welfare and working conditions of women migrant workers in selected Asian countries is providing assistance to certain countries in South-East and East Asia and the Pacific. In South Asia trade unions were sensitized to the problems of migrant workers and the positive role that workers' education could play in minimizing the adverse effects of migration. In the South Pacific policy advice was given to the governments of Samoa and Tonga regarding better utilization of remittances for employment generation.

A regional project on the design of appropriate migration policies was launched in the major labour-exporting countries of West Asia, including Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. The aims are to strengthen the capacity of ministries in charge of labour migration, draw up national strategies and programmes to enable the sound placement of migrant workers in the region's labour markets, and promulgate national legislation for the protection of workers and their families. Activities were implemented in the countries concerned and national and regional seminars were held on organizing the migration process, designing migration policies, reducing unemployment and assisting in the evolution of the receiving countries.

The Governing Body of the ILO has decided that the ILO instruments on migrant workers should be examined under the article 19 procedure in 1998-99.

Human resource development

Human resource development (HRD) in Asia and the Pacific has evolved considerably since the early 1990s. It has now become one of the major concerns in relation to social and economic development strategies. Since a well-educated and trained workforce is essential to a nation's competitiveness, many countries in the region are seeking to improve workers' skills overall, as well as the quality of jobs offered. Retraining and reintegration of workers are often necessary following economic restructuring and resulting job losses. Employment creation strategies include small enterprise development and self-employment. Attention must also be paid to affording training and job opportunities to vulnerable groups, such as indigenous and tribal peoples, persons with disabilities and victims of armed conflict.

In addition to the integrated activities with an HRD component already mentioned, the ILO is helping develop skills and vocational training in Pakistan, leading mainly to self-employment and micro-enterprise development, through a range of donor-supported technical activities. In Sri Lanka it is involved in a government vocational training and testing programme, using UNDP resources. In the Philippines it initiated a study with a view to better implementation of the provisions of the Human Resources Development Convention (No. 142), and Recommendation (No. 150), of 1975, given the recent changes in the economic environment and new attitudes towards training. The findings were subsequently discussed in a workshop attended by policy-makers, workers' and employers' representatives, and training providers. This was the first of four such studies planned in the Asia-Pacific region. The recommendations made will provide insights for more effective promotion of HRD. In Fiji the ILO is assisting the national authorities in developing an integrated HRD approach to employment promotion. Apart from skills development, small enterprise development, cooperatives and tourism are targeted for intervention.

A tripartite workshop was organized by the ILO in Manila in 1994 to explore and analyse reforms in the education and training systems of ASEAN countries. The objective was to enhance further the effectiveness of these systems to respond to changes in the world of work.

A regional skills development programme of the governments of the Asia and Pacific Region (APSDEP) is being implemented with technical support from the International Training Centre of the ILO, Turin, Italy, and the three MDTs in the Asia-Pacific region. The main objective is to foster the development and delivery of an effec-tive national technical and vocational education and training system in the countries of the region. Activities include studies, exchange of information, policy analysis and review, and technical meetings.

In West Asia activities were aimed at enhancing the capacity of policy-makers, formulating and implementing effective HRD policies, and developing new approaches to the organization and management of vocational training systems capable of linking both education and skills training to the needs of rapidly changing labour markets. An important objective is better linkages between training and labour market needs in the private and informal sectors through skills training programmes, including training for self-employment and small business creation. Emphasis was placed on empowering women workers through training in managerial, planning and evaluation skills, and integrating persons with disabilities and other under-privileged groups into vocational training systems. An underlying element is to expand the role of employers' and workers' organiza-tions in the provision of training.

To mitigate the consequences of a mismatch between labour supply and demand in most of the West Asian countries, the ILO played a crucial role in assisting governments to give due attention to skills development, given the differing profiles of the countries concerned. Major problems in Jordan and Yemen were analysed so as to identify symptoms, causes and possible remedies. Efforts have been made to tackle the increasing rate of unemployment in almost all countries, the low rate of national participation in the labour force of labour-importing countries, and the pressing need for national recon-struction of Lebanon and of the West Bank and Gaza. The ILO also made a special effort to strengthen the capacities of trainers through the publication of manuals in Arabic.

Following the adoption in 1989 of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), the ILO's INDISCO programme was set up. Its objective is to enable indigenous and tribal peoples to be self-reliant, through cooperatives and other self-help organizations at the grass-roots level. Since 1994 INDISCO has been working with indigenous and tribal groups in India and the Philippines. Twelve projects are being implemented in these two countries by local organizations under the guidance of INDISCO, and initiatives have been taken to expand coverage to other countries. Each project has a strong income- and employment-generation com-ponent, selected by the target beneficiaries themselves, and supported by functional literacy and technical training services, and revolving loan schemes.

The ILO is the lead agency for vocational and training issues within the framework of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, which aims to improve the conditions of people with disabilities and to harness their full development potential through new policy initiatives and actions. As a contribution to the implementation of the Agenda for Action of the Decade, and in line with the ILO strategy to promote the observance of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention (No. 159), and Recommendation (No. 168), of 1983, the ILO is carrying out a project in China, Malaysia and Thailand which involves developing and testing guidelines for the integration of people with disabilities into mainstream employment services, and providing train-ing in the use of the guidelines for labour administration staff. Two further projects relate to the integration of women with disabilities into mainstream vocational training, and the promotion of private sector employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The ILO has also provided support to intercountry seminars, organized by the governments of India and Malaysia, on multisectoral collaboration in this area.

In Cambodia a Japan-funded project will focus on vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities and will promote their access to activities leading to employment or self-employment. The ILO has also provided advice on the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities to the Government of Mongolia following the completion of a dis-ability situation analysis.

In West Asia ILO vocational rehabilitation assistance has been considerably strengthened, with a view to supporting the tripartite constituents and other concerned parties in developing policies and services to promote the economic and social integration of persons with disabilities. Technical cooperation projects were implemented in Iraq, Yemen, and the West Bank and Gaza. A subregional project on the development of community-based rehabilitation programmes for the Gulf States was also executed. These projects were designed to strengthen the institutional framework and staff capacity.

In response to the need for training on specific issues related to vocational rehabilitation, the ILO conducted national seminars and workshops in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank and Gaza, and two regional seminars. Advice was offered in assessing needs and assisting the authorities in establishing a policy framework for vocational rehabilitation.

Vocational rehabilitation is particularly necessary in countries ravaged by war or civil strife. In Afghanistan ILO technical assis-tance has involved a four-year project for Afghans with disabilities and, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (and later the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan), under Japanese funding, a skills training project for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and along the border. Since 1995 the ILO has been a partner agency in a comprehensive project of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for Afghans with disabilities, and is engaged in counselling, training and employment placement. In the Islamic Republic of Iran a UNDP-funded vocational rehabilitation project to assist war victims was implemented between 1990 and 1994.

Application of the ILO instruments on vocational rehabilitation and employment is being examined in 1997-98 under the article 19 procedure.

Industrial relations and tripartism

Sound industrial relations can contribute to the creation of employment by improving the competitiveness of ILO member States. They allow employers and workers to strike an optimal balance between the efficiency of the enterprise and adequate protection for workers, enabling them to share in the benefits of growth. Legislation is one of the principal instruments through which countries can formulate and implement labour policy in line with the changing needs brought about by globalization and economic liberalization. In the quest for common ground on industrial relations issues, the ILO assisted governments and employers' and workers' organizations in the region to enhance their capacity to promote new roles and to develop social dialogue through tripartism.

A number of Asian governments have requested the ILO's assist-ance in the revision of labour laws. Through advisory services and technical cooperation, help in revising existing legislation or drafting new legislation was provided to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. In 1996, with ILO collaboration, India set up a Bipartite Committee to review its labour laws. In China the ILO provided advice in drafting the new Labour Law, which came into force in 1995, as well as related legislation in the field of collective bargaining.

In West Asia the ILO assisted the authorities in Kuwait, Lebanon, and the West Bank and Gaza in establishing or revising labour laws. Advisory services and training activities on labour legislation, both at the regional and country levels, were also undertaken by the ILO/UNDP/ALO Regional Programme on Labour Administration (RAPLA).

Developing appropriate labour legislation is the first step in establishing sound industrial relations, but ensuring that it is imple-mented effectively is just as important. Project proposals were developed for Cambodia, the Lao PDR and Viet Nam for the implementation of their Labour Codes. Training courses were organized in each country for conciliators and arbitrators, supported by the development of training materials in the form of practical guides in the national languages.

In the field of institution building, governments have requested the ILO to help them strengthen conciliation skills and improve the functioning of industrial courts. Studies on labour courts administra-tion were undertaken in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The ILO assisted labour ministries in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to strengthen conciliation skills, and provided advice based on the experiences of labour courts in other countries. An ILO study examined how the new Labour Court in Viet Nam could be integrated within the existing court system. As a follow-up activity, a seminar was organized for newly appointed labour judges. The possibility of a subregional project in East Asia on labour courts administration is being examined.

The Norwegian-funded Asian-Pacific Project on Tripartism (APPOT), 1992-96, made a significant contribution to raising aware-ness regarding the principles and practices of tripartism in South and South-East Asia. Activities focused on tripartite consultation as a tool for social and economic development. As a result, in 1996 Nepal established its First Central Labour Advisory Council. APPOT also facilitated the ratification of the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), in both Nepal and Sri Lanka. In India the Government agreed to appoint a permanent review committee to monitor the implementation of the tripartite Indian Labour Conference. All South Asian countries worked out action plans to improve national tripartite consultation mechanisms under APPOT.

Other regional and subregional activities include a meeting on tripartite consultation on labour issues for selected Asian countries, held in February 1997, with the collaboration of the Hong Kong Department of Labour, and a Japan-funded regional programme, which aims to assist the tripartite constituents in developing effective workplace relations and an industrial relations environment that is supportive of increasing globalization. Under the third phase of a Japan-funded project on industrial relations, the ILO conducted tripar-tite seminars in Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Viet Nam in 1996. Plans of action were drawn up to promote shop-floor labour-management cooperation and consultation, urging the governments concerned to publicize best practices, conduct national campaigns, encourage information sharing and establish networking mechanisms with model enterprises.

In South Asia governments have requested the ILO to help them organize tripartite training programmes in the fields of collective bargaining, dispute settlement and labour courts administration, remu-neration and privatization. Four such programmes were conducted during 1995-97 in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with the active involvement of workers' and employers' specialists. Training modules were carefully prepared and supported with train-ing manuals in local languages.

Tripartite dialogue is vigorously encouraged in several South Asian countries. In India this is being achieved through improved technical advisory services and the development of a process under which a consensus can be reached on priority areas for ILO action. Such dialogue has also taken place in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Activities have also been initiated in Maldives to facilitate the eventual accession of that country to ILO membership. In Nepal various programmes are being undertaken to promote industrial relations and workers' and employers' activities. A Labour Court and a National Tripartite Council were established in 1996.

In South-East Asia an ILO/UNDP report on industrial relations and labour protection in Indonesia laid the groundwork for future ILO assistance on wages, industrial relations, labour standards and related areas. The Ministry of Manpower has requested follow-up assistance, and the UNDP has approved in principle a project aimed at promoting improved industrial relations, occupational safety and health, and equality of treatment at the workplace, and at reviewing the minimum wages system.

Strengthening the institutional capacity of workers' and employers' organizations is considered a priority in the South Pacific. An ILO study has been undertaken on the potential for tripartism in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. A high-level subregional meeting on the promotion of tripartism took place in August 1997. Various means of action were explored, building on what had already been achieved and based on local customs and practice.

In East Asia the ILO's overall efforts have made a major contribution to country objectives and their attainment in Cambodia, China, Mongolia and Viet Nam. In China a programme proposal has been developed focusing on tripartism, collective bargaining, dispute settlement and labour inspection. In Thailand assistance was provided to a tripartite working group in identifying practical measures to improve workplace cooperation. Several workshops (with a focus on countries in transition) were organized to raise awareness of the operation of industrial relations systems in market economies. To assist constituents in developing a better understanding of industrial relations, a glossary of industrial relations terms was published.

In West Asia RAPLA attached great importance to promoting cooperation among the tripartite partners. A tripartite regional meeting on industrial relations, held in 1995, provided participants with an opportunity to review the prevailing legal framework and practices and to consider possible improvements in the light of economic and social changes in the region. Also, within the frame-work of RAPLA, training courses were conducted at the national level, with tripartite participation, including one in the West Bank and Gaza.

The broader concept of employment relations, as discussed in Chapter II, encompasses effective human resource management at the enterprise level. ILO activities in this field are covered under "Working conditions", below.

Application of Convention No. 144 and Recommendation No. 152 concerning tripartite consultation will, according to the decision of the ILO's Governing Body, be examined under the article 19 procedure in 1999-2000.

Employers' and workers' activities

One of the ILO's major roles is to be supportive of employers' and workers' organizations as partners in economic and social policy-making. Apart from the activities noted here, the ILO organized specific activities for workers and employers on international labour standards (see below).

Employers' activities

Employers in the region are increasingly faced with social pressure and international competition. They need to develop strong professional associations that can provide advice and services to their members. The ILO encourages employers' organizations to view themselves as business organizations and to develop (and periodically review) clearly focused strategic plans. This has enabled technical cooperation to be related more closely to the needs of employers' organizations and their members. Another objective has been to identify the major issues and challenges for employers over the next decade, and the initiatives needed to adapt to the changing environ-ment.

The ILO supports employers' organizations in contributing to enterprise development in two ways. The first is by strengthening their capacity to influence policy-making through lobbying. This is particularly critical in economies in transition, and to an extent in South Asia. The second is by assisting them in providing services to members, especially in the areas of employment (industrial) relations (see Chapter II), HRM, productivity, occupational safety and health and working conditions, small-enterprise development and information dissemination.

Various workshops and seminars in Asia and the Pacific have addressed issues of concern to employers, notably that of balancing considerations of competitiveness with social justice. For example, a South Asian employers' symposium was held in Dhaka in March 1997. As a key to organizational effectiveness, staff development and training for employers' organizations have been conducted in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. In response to the changing focus of industrial relations, advisory services were offered and training workshops took place at both the regional and the country levels on the elements of a sound industrial relations system, workplace cooperation mechanisms and HRM, and dispute settlement and prevention.

Advice and training on improving the productivity of enterprises have been provided to employers' organizations in Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, as well as to the countries mentioned above. Performance and skills-based pay systems are among the tools being considered, as well as linking productivity enhancement to the improvement of working conditions through the ILO's Work Improvements in Small Enterprises (WISE) approach (see "Working conditions", below). In economies in transition (the Lao PDR, Mongolia, Viet Nam), the role and management of employers' organizations, with special reference to influencing legislation and IR policy so as to be consistent with a market economy, were addressed through workshops and advisory services. In the Philippines the ILO is supporting the promotion of women's equality in private sector activities through employers' organizations. Expected outputs include institutional support systems to address gender issues, gender-awareness training and capacity building. With the emerging interest among employers' organizations in developing occupational safety and health provisions, plans have been prepared in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Employers' organizations were also assisted in broadening their membership base by developing income-generating activities, and in establishing and upgrading information systems and research capacity.

In response to the growing needs of their members, employers in West Asia provided guidance and assistance in tripartite consultations on economic and social development issues. The ILO's training packages, such as Improve Your Business and Start Your Business, were widely used in training activities. Regional and subregional seminars and workshops focused on entrepreneurship development, environmental issues, occupational safety and health, and improve-ments in productivity and working conditions. Tripartite meetings were also held on the social impact of structural adjustment and privatization and on the role of employers' organizations. A fellow-ship programme for employers' organizations opened the way to an exchange of experience and knowledge among employers. To support these activities, the ILO published and translated into Arabic several new documents of relevance to employers.

Workers' activities

Trade unions in Asia and the Pacific have sought ILO advice on improving their effectiveness and adopting a more proactive role in the face of globalization. Regional workers' education seminars were organized in 1995 and 1996 on basic human rights and develop-ment, on strategies for promoting the unionization of workers in the informal sector, and on new methods of workers' education. In 1997 the ILO organized a regional seminar for trade unions on contract labour. The aim was to identify the effects of contract labour on employment and working conditions, to examine the potential for effective regulation, and to develop policies for protecting the interests of contract workers.

In South Asia guidelines on industrial relations and collective bargaining are to be published. The ILO commissioned studies in India on the impact of economic reforms on rural workers and their organizations, and in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on labour contracting and the casualization of employment. Seminars on international labour standards for rural and plantation workers were held in the South Asian countries, with special emphasis on the Plantations Convention, 1958 (No. 110), and the Rural Workers' Organizations Convention, 1975 (No. 141). A subregional seminar on the impact of the same Conventions was also organized. A Danish-funded project launched in 1996 aims to strengthen women's participation in rural workers' organizations. Through a workers' education seminar in Sri Lanka, recommendations were made to the authorities on compliance with international labour standards and future ratifications. To deal with issues related to EPZs, workers' education programmes on trade union rights, especially on the unionization of women workers, have been implemented in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and are planned for Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Training courses on collective bargaining for trade unionists have been held in several countries.

ILO assistance to workers' organizations in East Asia paid special attention to human rights issues and to enhancing the skills and knowledge of trade union leaders and members. The ILO also supported workers' organizations in transitional countries in develop-ing their capacity to participate in an industrial relations system based on collective bargaining. Workshops were conducted in the Lao PDR, Mongolia and Viet Nam, and a training module is now being developed. Workers' education programmes in the South Pacific include labour reform in Fiji.

An ILO project funded by the Government of Belgium, which began in November 1995, aims at strengthening the capacity of trade unions in three countries to provide equal opportunities and treatment for women at work, and to contribute to the elimination of child labour (box 4).

 

Box 4.
Women workers and child labour: Strengthening workers' education

A project funded by the Belgian Government, launched in 1995 under the auspices of the ILO's Workers' Activities Branch, aims to strengthen the capacity of trade unions to promote equal opportunities and treatment for women at work and to contribute to the progressive elimination of child labour. The project, which covers Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam, and focuses on the electronics, textiles, food and beverage, and agricultural sectors, will establish focal points and structures in the national trade unions selected. Workers' education is the main vehicle for achieving this.

  • Enhancing the status of women workers. After an intensive awareness-raising workshop for trade union leaders, a gender training programme was developed for plant-level union representatives. A handbook on gender inequality at work was prepared in local languages, and trainers were trained to conduct a two-day course. Trade unionists in Indonesia and Viet Nam introduced legal literacy courses for women workers and members of women's committees. In Thailand women trade unionists were selected for in-depth training in leadership, the English language and legal skills.
  • Combating child labour. Following a survey of trade unions' perceptions of child labour, an awareness-raising programme was conducted in the three countries. Training kits were designed to give tools to trade unionists to tackle child labour, including relevant international labour standards and international agreements. Together with video materials, these were translated into local languages and will be adapted for education programmes for plant-level union representatives. A final subregional meeting will allow the three countries to share experiences.

With a view to strengthening representative and independent workers' organizations, action in West Asian countries was designed to assist unions in expanding their organizational base and improving the effectiveness of their structures and services, refining their negotiating skills and capacity to participate in the social and economic debate, enhancing workers' education activities, and fostering awareness in the field of equality and gender issues. Seminars and training courses were conducted at the national and regional levels, and workers' education materials were translated into Arabic. These covered issues related to collective bargaining, tripartism, the social and legal protection of workers in changing economies, women workers' questions and labour migration.

International labour standards

The discussion in Chapter II laid emphasis on the enduring relevance of international labour standards, especially in today's climate of globalization, and the need to strive for equity and efficiency. It also introduced the question of the ratification of the seven fundamental Conventions as the cornerstone of the ILO's strategy on human rights. This section covers specific activities on the part of the ILO to inform, advise and assist constituents in ratifying and implementing these and other Conventions.

Globalization has underlined the continued relevance of inter-national labour standards in practically all fields, ranging from occupational safety and health to employment creation. Information on how these questions are resolved in other countries is becoming more and more important with the closer integration of Asian and Pacific economies in the global context.

The Director-General's Report presented this year at the Inter-national Labour Conference, dealing with standard setting and globalization, was a major step in preparing the ILO for the twenty-first century. No fewer than 314 speakers, including 117 ministers, expressed their views on the Report, allowing this complex issue, which has been under discussion for nearly three years in the Governing Body, to be brought to the attention of international public opinion.

It was widely recognized that, since economic development does not automatically bring social progress, the ILO must continue its work in the area of standard setting, and try to bring about a certain parallelism between social and economic progress resulting from the processes of globalization and liberalization of trade.

As might have been expected, the section of the Report dealing with the fundamental rights of workers was the subject of a most lively debate. The discussion showed that there is broad consensus on the importance of strengthening the fundamental principles of the ILO in this field, not only because they affect the essential rights of working people but because they are the means of and the condition for promoting the other rights, according to the preferences and possibilities of each country.

Where opinions differ is how to strengthen these principles on fundamental rights. The two major channels available -- universal ratification of the seven core Conventions and the adoption by the Conference of a solemn Declaration on fundamental rights -- are complementary. Although a few countries expressed some hesitation regarding the concept and effects of a Declaration, a fairly broad con-sensus has arisen among Governments, as well as Employers and Workers, concerning the principle of the consideration of such a text and the implementation machinery which would accompany it.

The Declaration would aim at reaffirming the commitments which member States have freely accepted in joining the ILO and sub-scribing to its values. The Organization would thereby invite its Members to renew solemnly such commitments by making them more explicit. The proposals submitted in this respect to the Governing Body in November 1997 should provide a sufficiently consensual basis, taking into account the various sensitivities, and make it possible for this vital question to be included on the agenda of the 1998 Session of the Conference.

As regards new standards, the Conference adopted instruments updating existing standards on private employment agencies. It also held first discussions on possible new instruments concerning contract labour and small and medium-sized enterprises. The latter in parti-cular shows not only how the ILO's standard-setting machinery is adapted to the regulation of formal employment relations, but also how it can contribute to the equitable and efficient development of the economy as a whole, including the informal sector which is so large in the Asia-Pacific region.

Concerning the supervision of standards, the Conference adopted the Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which among other things discussed the fulfilment of reporting obligations, ratifications of fundamental human rights and other Conventions, and the ILO's work in the context of other international organizations. The Committee examined problems of the application of ratified Conventions in all countries of the world, and drew special attention to the cases of the Islamic Republic of Iran and of Myanmar, among others. The Office is called on to provide appropriate forms of assist-ance in such cases.

Countries are increasingly taking account of international labour Conventions and Recommendations when shaping and adjusting legislation, and workers and employers are seeking information on their rights and responsibilities. The ILO has responded to numerous requests for information on ILO instruments, encompassing the entire spectrum of Conventions and Recommendations. Governments in practically every member State in the region received assistance in reporting on ratified and unratified Conventions, and on the sub-mission of international labour standards to national parliaments. Advisory services to the constituents, which are often inexperienced in applying ratified ILO standards and reporting on them, will be intensified, in order to improve the dialogue between ILO supervisory bodies and member States.

Many seminars and workshops have been held in Asia and the Pacific to inform and assist the tripartite constituents. In Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands the ILO's constituents were informed about the scope of international labour standards and their relevance to the countries in question. This led to recommendations for the ratification of further Conventions. In the Philippines a series of "Dialogues with legislators" was organized to discuss the feasibility of ratification of selected Conventions with senators and members of Congress. As a result, four Conventions relating to social security and accident compensation were ratified in 1994, while recommendations for further ratifications, including that of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), which were made in a subsequent dialogue, have resulted in progress in this area. Within a multidisciplinary framework, contributions on international labour standards were made to national tripartite seminars on industrial relations in Mongolia and on labour law in China. Using a similar approach, a seminar on equality and women workers' rights, with gender specialists and international labour standards specialists, was held in Beijing. Some emphasis was put on maritime labour standards, to advise constituents on the possibility of ratifying the relevant instruments and on their application. Tripartite seminars on this set of standards took place in China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, as joint exercises of standards and maritime specialists.

Two international labour standards workshops were held with the Council of Indian Employers. Japanese trade unions were informed about standards issues relating to freedom of association, discrimina-tion against women workers and hours of work. In Malaysia several ILO seminars were organized to advise the Malaysian Trades Union Congress on international labour standards in relation to draft national labour legislation. In Thailand a seminar on international labour standards relating to women workers was held to prepare women trade unionists for the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Other standards-related activities for employers and workers are covered under "Employers' and workers' activities", above.

It is encouraging to note that many of the requests for information concern the seven fundamental Conventions, and a number of events were specifically aimed at raising awareness and deepening the understanding of these instruments. A seminar on the seven fundamental Conventions was held in Viet Nam. Further activities concentrated on groups of Conventions or individual instru-ments; in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, seminars and workshops were held on Convention No. 138, to advise on the implications of ratification. This trend will be encouraged and sup-ported, and every effort will be made to achieve universal ratification of these instruments.

A Japan-funded Asia-Pacific Symposium on Standards-Related Topics is organized annually. It aims at enhancing the understanding of Government, Employer and Worker delegates to the International Labour Conference regarding international labour standards, including the obligations of member States under the ILO Constitution.

In West Asia, too, efforts continued to promote the ratification of the seven fundamental Conventions and to increase constituents' awareness of the role of international labour standards in general, while promoting wider observance of them. Advice was provided to governments on the preparation of replies to questionnaires concerning international labour standards. Fellowships were granted to the tripar-tite constituents to participate in training, including the Asia-Pacific symposium mentioned above. In 1995 the ILO and the ALO organized a tripartite regional seminar to promote understanding of international and Arab labour standards.

The ILO Governing Body has decided to collect information on the seven fundamental Conventions at regular and recurring intervals from all member States, including those which have not yet ratified them. Such a procedure, which is possible under article 19 of the ILO Constitution, will permit the gathering of the necessary information in order to facilitate the development of policies and measures to overcome obstacles to ratification. In addition, the Governing Body at its 270th Session in November 1997, will examine, on the basis of a document prepared by the Office, the results of the ratification campaign launched in 1995.

Workers' protection

The importance of developing a clear framework for implementing legislation and formulating national policies on workers' pro-tection was discussed in Chapter II, and these aspects are covered in this chapter under "Industrial relations and tripartism". This section covers programmes on specific topics, or for particular sectors or groups of workers, in the areas of working conditions, occupational safety and health, and social security.

Working conditions

The improvement of working conditions has increasingly become a priority concern of governments in the region, especially in relation to small enterprises. The ILO's Work Improvements in Small Enterprises (WISE) methodology has been further developed. A wide range of new materials is designed to increase the effectiveness of WISE programmes, and to strengthen the involvement of employers' and workers' organizations. Action manuals and training guides for the garments, metalworking, food-processing and wood-processing industries will make it possible for industry associations to conduct WISE programmes for their members. A productivity performance assessment system enables entrepreneurs to relate better working con-ditions more closely to productivity and encourages action to imple-ment improvements. A WISE action manual for workers, developed in cooperation with a Danish-funded ILO workers' education project, offers trade unions materials adapted to their needs and perspectives. Finally, a computerized database of WISE improvements has been set up. WISE projects have been implemented in Bhutan, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

Among other activities to improve working conditions, the ILO has collaborated with the United Nations Population Fund in Bangladesh concerning the provision of family welfare programmes for workers in industry, in cooperatives and on tea plantations. In China a review of occupational safety and health and working conditions in township and village enterprises was carried out. In Papua New Guinea a multidisciplinary mission conducted a review of labour administration and workers' protection, and identified specific practical actions to be taken.

A Danish-funded subregional project, which completed its work in 1996, established networks to improve the working conditions of women engaged in piecework at home. The project, which covered Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, raised public awareness of homeworkers and encouraged ministries of labour to include them in national labour statistics, focused on small business development and credit schemes, and offered education and training. In June 1996 the International Labour Conference adopted the Home Work Conven-tion, 1996 (No. 177). In so doing, it demonstrated the concern that homeworkers are attracting.

The problem of sexual harassment as an infringement of workers' personal dignity and a barrier to equality of opportunity and treatment in employment is increasingly recognized in the region. In the Philippines the ILO assisted in the implementation of the new anti sexual harassment legislation through the development of training materials and training courses for employers' and workers' representatives. Training was concerned with the development of enterprise policies and procedures, and with paralegal matters and counselling skills for those responsible for dealing with cases of sexual harassment.

The Philippines was selected in Asia and the Pacific for the implementation, in 1994-95, of a component of the ILO Interdepartmental Project on Environment and the World of Work, entitled "Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development". Innovative action programmes were aimed at strengthening the capacity of the tripartite constituents to participate effectively in decision-making on work and the environment, and at building links with other organizations. Projects included the development of "green clauses" in collective bargaining agreements, which were put into practice in pilot enterprises. As a result of another project, the membership of the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development, which is responsible for the national Agenda 21 to implement the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, was enlarged to include employers' and workers' organizations.

Working conditions in EPZs have been an area of serious con-cern. The ILO undertook activities, in 1996-97, as part of a Special Action Programme on Labour and Social Issues relating to EPZs. The programme sets out to promote an understanding of the factors influencing the development of EPZs, especially their impact on social and labour conditions. Missions have been carried out or planned to Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka to identify and document cases of best employment practices, including the rights of workers in EPZs.

Occupational safety and health

Occupational safety and health (OSH) have received high priority through the ILO's work in the region. A series of activities have been undertaken in collaboration with governments, and employers' and workers' organizations. They include upgrading legislation, assistance in policy formulation, advice about inspection and technical services, setting up OSH centres, training, and the exchange of information through the organization of seminars and workshops. The 13th World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health held in New Delhi in 1993, the first to be hosted in a developing region, provided a useful forum for sharing successful experiences.

Other activities include a comprehensive national needs survey in the field of OSH and the environment which is being undertaken in Pakistan in collaboration with the tripartite partners, and an OSH seminar organized in 1995 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to which neighbouring countries of Central Asia were invited.

The dissemination of information on OSH issues is extremely important. In 1995, EASMAT produced three publications on preven-tion of hazards in the workplace, of occupational accidents and diseases and of major industrial accidents, and these have been widely disseminated throughout the region.

Strengthening country capabilities, by pooling information on resources and expertise, has proved most valuable. A Finnish-funded regional programme on occupational safety and health (ASIA-OSH) has concentrated since 1994 on establishing national OSH information networks in over 20 countries in the region. The project also supports National and Collaborating OSH Information Centres, which contri-bute to preventing occupational accidents and diseases. ASIA-OSH has developed a World Wide Web site linking various OSH institutions in the region. Other activities include training of trainers in the safe use of chemicals and agrochemicals.

A Danish-funded workers' education project on OSH in South-East Asian countries has operated since 1993 in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Training courses are offered to trainers, and to trade union members and officials. A set of basic training materials has been developed in local languages.

A German-funded project on OSH and environmental issues for workers' organizations, mainly in Bangladesh and India, was launched in 1992. The project covered the textiles, mining and plantations sectors. Training for trainers was organized, and workbooks and checklists were developed and translated into local languages.

In West Asia an ILO/UNDP technical cooperation project designed to strengthen the capacity of the authorities concerned with occupational safety and health was implemented in the Syrian Arab Republic. In 1996 the ILO and the ALO held a regional seminar on the role of employers' and workers' organizations in this field. Training was also conducted in Jordan and Lebanon.

Social security

The ILO has assisted a number of countries in the region in introducing new social security provisions or expanding existing schemes. Several projects were aimed at advising countries undergoing transition to a market economy on reforming their social security systems. In Bangladesh and Sri Lanka workers were familiarized with various types of social security schemes, and recommendations were made to their governments to introduce new schemes. In China ILO technical cooperation contributed to the formulation of the Social Insurance Act, and regulations on employment injury and unemployment insurance. The ILO has been requested to provide technical inputs to the reform of the health insurance system for urban workers and pensioners, beginning with a national workshop planned for August 1997. In 1996 a preparatory assistance project on the development of social security was launched in the Lao PDR, funded by the UNDP, with the twin aims of strengthening the existing scheme covering public sector employees and of establishing a scheme to cover workers in the expanding private sector. In Pakistan the ILO is assisting the Government to develop a national pension scheme which will expand coverage from 2 to 7 million beneficiaries and will provide increased benefits. In Turkmenistan the ILO gave advice on social security legislation, methods of financing pensions and social security administration. In Viet Nam a Netherlands-funded project on social protection development and training is aimed at strengthening the social security scheme for employees and at enhancing the capacity of the ministries concerned to develop social assistance measures for vulnerable groups.

In the fields of social protection and health care, and developing replacement incomes in old age, the ILO cooperated in the implementation of a UNDP-funded, nationally executed project in Malaysia which focused on the need to reform old-age provision by the introduction of social insurance pensions, on the extension of social security to groups of the population not currently covered, and on rationalizing the financing of health care. In India the ILO has reviewed the problems of developing a social security system for workers in unorganized sectors and has formulated a number of ideas. In the Philippines it is continuing to provide assistance in the field of social security reform and is giving technical support to the development of social protection for the informal sector. It has also been requested to assist in implementing the National Health Insurance Law passed in 1995.

Labour administration

Effective labour administration and labour inspection services, including the enforcement of legislation and bringing vulnerable groups within the scope of labour law, go hand in hand with well-conceived labour market policies and a properly functioning industrial relations system. The ILO has assisted Cambodia, the Lao PDR and Viet Nam by completing a blueprint for the long-term development of the labour administration system in each country. In the same three countries a number of capacity-building activities have commenced, including the training of labour inspectors and conciliators, the training of trainers, and the production of training materials. Detailed proposals for the strengthening of public employment services in Cambodia and Viet Nam have been prepared, as has a similar strategy for Malaysia. Advice has been offered to Thailand on improving the operation of the minimum wage system, with particular reference to compliance. Mongolia has benefited from technical advisory services for the improvement of labour administration through better labour inspection, and for the training of labour inspectors with responsibility for the enforcement of child labour laws.

Two major Australian-funded projects have assisted in the development of national labour administrations in East Asia and in South-East Asia and the Pacific. The Project to Support Pacific Labour Departments (PACLAB) has assisted ministries of labour in a number of Pacific island countries (box 5), and Australian Support for ILO Objectives in Asia, which ended in 1996, provided assistance to labour administrations and the social partners in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam. A long-term Japan-funded fellow-ship programme, which commenced in 1989, has organized study tours in the region for labour officials in the fields of labour administration training, employment services and labour inspection.

 

Box 5.
Partnership in the South Pacific

The ILO-AusAID Project to Support Pacific Labour Departments (PACLAB) is a complement to the active partnership policy, as well as a valuable adjunct to the role of the MDTs. PACLAB focuses primarily on strengthening the technical and administrative capabilities of the Labour Departments of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu in the delivery of employment and inspection services, OSH, labour relations and the collection of labour market information.

Its contribution to active partnership derives from its combination of donors: the Australian and New Zealand Labour Departments provide the majority of the expertise and training for the project (and bear all salary costs); AusAID provides the bulk of the funds for training in Australia and New Zealand. The ILO manages the project and ensures conformity with international labour standards and close, complementary working relations between the project, the ILO Office in Suva and the MDTs operating in these countries. An interesting feature has been the "twinning" of five branch offices of the New Zealand Department of Safety and Health Service with five of the island countries, in respect of OSH and inspection services.

Partnerships among the ILO and the participating countries will be further strengthened in 1997, culminating in a High Level Meeting on Tripartism to be held in Fiji. This will bring together all the parties involved, including government and workers' and employers' representatives from six island countries.

Labour administration assistance in West Asia was carried out mainly through RAPLA. A number of training activities and advisory missions were undertaken at the regional and country levels on labour legislation, labour inspection, labour statistics and labour ministries' institutional framework. RAPLA also produced manuals and guides and translated into Arabic a number of ILO publications on labour administration. In the light of developments in the West Bank and Gaza, the ILO launched a project to assist the Palestinian Authority in establishing the Department of Labour.

In the field of employment services, a proposed revision of the Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 96), was submitted for discussion at the 85th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1997. This foresees the deregulation of private employment agencies, and the promotion of partnership between private and public employment services.

Labour statistics

The collection and analysis of accurate labour statistics are essential for effective labour market policies and programmes. The ILO supports the development of labour statistics in the region in a number of ways: assisting in the design and implementation of new or revised data collections; helping develop national standard statistical classifications; preparing manuals and guidelines; and conducting training courses. These activities are carried out in accordance with country needs.

The ILO has undertaken reviews and assessments of the labour statistics systems in several countries. It will support the Government of Nepal in undertaking its first national labour force survey and in setting up a labour market information system. Guidance has also been offered in compiling statistics on child labour and the informal sector. In the Philippines the ILO assisted the National Statistics Office in the first national survey of child labour and in an urban informal sector survey. A Japan-funded regional project has trained officials of ministries of labour in establishing labour statistics based on administrative records.

In West Asia the ILO has made major efforts to improve the database for employment planning in Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. This was accomplished through direct support for the efforts of governments to collect and analyse data on labour and employment. An analysis of the data will be used for socio-economic planning and will constitute the basis for setting up functional labour market information systems. Advisory services in these fields were supplemented by training activities aimed at increasing national technical capacity and fostering greater labour market cooperation.

In addition, the ILO assisted the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in formulating a five-year programme of action, establishing the institutional framework and conducting labour force surveys which would provide essential data for various activities in the West Bank and Gaza. Within this framework, technical advisory services were offered and fellowships and equipment were granted.

Child labour

Since 1990, the ILO's action against child labour has developed in scope and intensity, and technical cooperation has become a more prominent element of it. The year 1992 saw the launching of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). Beginning in six countries in 1992, it expanded to 11 in 1994. As of April 1997, 23 countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ILO, thereby committing themselves to undertake a country programme against child labour. As the region with the highest number of working children in the world, Asia remains a major beneficiary of the programme.

By March 1997 the number of IPEC donors had increased to 14. Germany, whose initial contribution was instrumental in the creation of IPEC, has again taken the lead with another substantial contribution for the 1996-2001 period. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have joined the Programme, while Belgium, France and the United States have pledged additional resources. The European Commission has also made a commitment to contribute.

Within a relatively short space of time and under sometimes difficult conditions, IPEC has made considerable inroads in legitimizing, strengthening and extending work on child labour in the region. Currently it is fully operational in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, and preparatory activities are well under way in Cambodia, China, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. IPEC lays stress on each country's "ownership" of its pro-grammes and makes a long-term commitment to those countries by setting in motion a process geared at reform and change in social attitudes, and in public and corporate policies. Its principal aims are to:

The starting point for implementing the IPEC strategy in partici-pating countries is the will and commitment of individual governments to address child labour problems in cooperation and consultation with employers' and workers' organizations, NGOs and other concerned partners in society.

The large number of action programmes implemented in the region range from those aimed at preventing child labour and with-drawing children from exploitative and hazardous work, and providing alternatives such as education, to programmes to improve working conditions as a transitional measure. Apart from the tens of thousands of working children who have directly benefited from IPEC, indicators of success are the national plans of action that have been developed highlighting the problems of children in extremely abusive forms of child labour. These concerns have been reflected in official government policies and programmes. Considerable progress has also been made in the area of legal reform and enforcement. Mention has already been made of the campaign to increase ratification of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138).

Only the highlights of IPEC's achievements are presented here to illustrate the many activities undertaken in the region. In Bangladesh, an agreement was signed with employers in 1995 to remove all child workers below 14 years of age from more than 2,000 garment factories and place them in school (box 6). Cambodia is expected to participate fully in IPEC in 1997. Substantial progress has already been made in strengthening local capability in dealing with child labour. In India, which has recently extended the MOU with the ILO, it is estimated that over 80,000 children have directly benefited from the Programme. In 1994 the Prime Minister made a declaration aimed at ending child labour in hazardous industries by the year 2000, coupled with an important resource allocation of US$250 million. A separate ILO project, the Child Labour Action Support Project, addressed the need to strengthen the institutional capacity to deal with the problem of child labour. In Indonesia steady progress has been made on all fronts, and a broad movement of social partners has been trained on how to take action against child labour. Particularly promising are efforts in the field of improved child labour inspection, and the Government's non-formal education and poverty alleviation programmes. IPEC's operations in Nepal have laid stress on preventing the migration of children from rural areas and protecting children from families which are bonded or suffer from social exclusion. The Government has recently ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). In Pakistan IPEC support has contributed to putting child labour on the agenda at all levels. A rapid assessment and national sample survey on child labour has been carried out. In the Philippines the first countrywide survey on child labour was undertaken in 1995. Currently, IPEC's work involves partnership with 23 national and local organizations, in close cooperation with the South-East Asia and the Pacific MDT. Particularly notable are the efforts to forge a coordinated judicial response to the problem of child labour, and campaign work on child domestic workers and the most intolerable forms of child labour. In Thailand IPEC has gradually shifted its attention to extreme forms of child labour exploitation, such as child prostitution and trafficking in children. The recent move by the Government to raise the minimum age for admission to employment to 15 years clearly shows that pro-gress is being made.

 

Box 6 .
Bangladeshi employers act to remove child workers from garment factories

Some attempts made by garment manufacturers in Bangladesh to stop using child labour in order to forestall trade sanctions had left the children even worse off, as they were deprived of an income and forced to make a living on the streets. For this reason, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association signed an agreement in 1995 with the ILO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to phase out child labour from the industry, and set up a programme to rehabilitate the children and their families.

The programme has been carried out in Dhaka and five other cities. First, a comprehensive survey of 2,000 manufacturers was undertaken in order to identify the extent and characteristics of child labour. A special inspection team has been set up for this purpose, and will remain active to ensure that employers comply with the agreement. Immediately after a child is removed from work, he or she is enrolled in an education and training programme. Financial assistance plays a major role, since families need to be compensated for giving up the child's income. The children receive monthly stipends linked to regular attendance in education or training, and receive assistance in seeking employment afterwards. Parents receive help in finding a job in the garment industry. Food and health programmes will also be available.

This initiative justifiably hit the headlines, but the importance of other operations undertaken in the country should not be over-looked. Since Bangladesh joined IPEC nearly 50 programmes are either completed or in progress, and work is advancing on a national plan of action. The Government has extended its cooperation with IPEC in an agreement until the end of 2001.

The ILO also endeavoured to increase the awareness of the problem in West Asia. A situation analysis of child labour was launched in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. This exercise will be conducted in close consultation with the ILO's tripartite constituents and other concerned parties. A programme of action is expected to be formulated in 1997.

A number of child labour issues transcend boundaries and require action at the regional or subregional level. Since 1994 IPEC has organized regional training courses, notably on the collection of statistics on child labour and the training of labour inspectors, followed by activities at the national level. A subregional training resource pool for child labour action programmes has also been formed. IPEC has also begun to work in coordination with the MDTs in response to emerging issues. For example, the debate on child work in labour-intensive manufacturing industries in South-East Asia led to a major study on the economic necessity of such labour in the garments, footwear and cane furniture industries in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, as a joint effort of IPEC, and the East Asia and South-East Asia and the Pacific MDTs. IPEC has launched a new programme targeting prostitution and other intolerable forms of child labour covering ten countries in the Mekong Basin and South Asia. Priority groups include girls, children from ethnic minorities and tribal populations, and children under 12 years. Special task forces will be formed in each participating country.

In 1996 delegates at the 83rd Session of the International Labour Conference agreed that a new Convention targeting the most exploita-tive, abusive and hazardous forms of child labour would be appro-priate. The draft text will be examined by the 86th Session of the Conference in 1998, for adoption in 1999. Two preparatory conferences at the ministerial level were held in 1997 in Amsterdam and in Oslo.

Concluding remarks

The ILO is committed to proving its worth by serving its constituents in Asia and the Pacific, and in the West Asian Arab States. This chapter has indicated the broad scope of its strategies and actions in the region, underpinned by the need for increased ratification and enforcement of international labour standards. It is hoped that the conclusions and points for discussion that follow will show the way ahead for close cooperation between the ILO and its tripartite partners, within the framework of the active partnership policy, to the year 2000 and beyond.


Updated by VC. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.