The subject of working time has been central to the work of the ILO since its inception, when it adopted the first of many international labour standards, the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No.1).
- Some of the major challenges in this area remain those which have been important since the dawn of the industrial age: excessive hours of work and the need to protect workers’ health and safety by providing adequate periods of rest and recuperation, including weekly rest and paid annual leave—which are enshrined in international labour standards.
- More recently, globalization and the resulting intensification of competition; dramatic advances in information and communications technologies; and new patterns of consumer demands for good and services have driven enterprises to adopt new methods of flexible—and sometimes global—production and organization of work, including temporal flexibility and spatial flexibility.
- In addition, there have been profound demographic changes, such as the increasing entry of women into the paid labour market; the shift from single “male breadwinner” households to dual-earner ones; and a growing concern regarding work-life balance—all of which have shaped workers’ needs and working time preferences, which vary by gender as well as over the life cycle.
- These various developments are reflected in a variety of flexible working time arrangements that vary from the conventional full-time, “9 to 5” model, such as flexi-time, part-time work, hours averaging, and working time accounts.