"Indigenous peoples have the right to decent work"

"A better and just future for indigenous peoples demands new and innovative approaches that enhance the visibility of indigenous peoples and pay attention to their concerns, needs and aspirations," said ILO Director-General underlying the role of decent work in ensuring indigenous people's health and well-being.

Statement | 09 August 2015
This year’s observance focuses on the theme “Post-2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being.” The post-2015 development agenda is expected to offer a powerful tool for securing and protecting the rights of women and men from groups subjected to persistent marginalization and exclusion and responding to their needs.

Indigenous peoples are often highly vulnerable to such marginalization and exclusion. They are active in the world of work where they engage in an array of livelihood activities, increasingly combining traditional occupations and practices with new sources of income generation. They can also rely on their traditional skills and knowledge as assets for commercial activities such as the creation of enterprises and cooperatives.

Yet they commonly experience discrimination and exploitation. Indigenous women face the double disadvantage of gender and ethnicity. Change is long overdue.

Indigenous peoples have the right to decent work and decent work has a key role to play in ensuring their health and well-being.

With increasing pressure on traditional livelihood strategies, indigenous women and men are seeking employment opportunities but often end up in unprotected and precarious work, largely in the informal economy. Beyond the personal consequences, this denial of rights at work and the dignity of work also has far-reaching implications for the development and well-being of their communities.

A better and just future for indigenous peoples demands new and innovative approaches that enhance the visibility of indigenous peoples and pay attention to their concerns, needs and aspirations. Respect for their cultures, traditions and ways of life must be the foundation of the way forward. Ensuring that their voice is heard in the design and implementation of policies and measures meant to enhance their living and working conditions is fundamental.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda as well as the follow-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014) will provide important frameworks for stepping up our efforts to ensure that they can work in dignity with respect for their rights and inclusion in the coverage of social protection floors.

The ILO’s international labour standards provide valuable guidance towards these ends. They include the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) in which handicrafts, rural and community-based industries, as well as subsistence economy and traditional activities of indigenous peoples, are identified as important factors in the maintenance of their cultures and in their economic self-reliance and development. Other relevant instruments include the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), and the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation (No. 204) adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2015.

The ILO is ready to work with governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations and in partnership with indigenous peoples, and as part of the UN family to ensure that indigenous peoples may enjoy access to decent work in inclusive and sustainable development processes.

More about the ILO Convention on Indigenous Peoples

In 2014, the ILO celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). The ILO Director-General presented this message to the Seminar on "Enabling rights-based development for indigenous and tribal peoples: Learning from 25 years' of experience with ILO Convention No. 169” held in November 2014. His message, which highlights the impact of the Convention in securing the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as important gaps in implementation, is particularly relevant as we celebrate the International Day of The Worlds Indigenous Peoples.