Decent work

Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

The ILO's Decent Work Agenda

Productive employment and decent work are key elements to achieving a fair globalization and poverty reduction. The ILO has developed an agenda for the community of work looking at job creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue, with gender equality as a crosscutting objective.

There has been an increased urgency among international policy-makers, particularly in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, to deliver quality jobs along with social protection and respect for rights at work to achieve sustainable, inclusive economic growth, and eliminate poverty.

Decent work and the Sustainable Development Goals

During the UN General Assembly in September 2015, decent work and the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda – employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue – became integral elements of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 8 of the 2030 Agenda calls for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work, and will be a key area of engagement for the ILO and its constituents. Furthermore, key aspects of decent work are widely embedded in the targets of many of the other 16 goals of the UN’s new development vision.

Leaders’ statements and action plans of the G20, G7, EU, African Union and other multilateral and regional bodies also confirm the significance of decent work to crisis recovery and sustainable development.

Highlights of the ILO's work

  1. Child labour

    Over the past decade, and with ILO assistance, more than 60 countries implementing almost 200 laws have adapted their legal frameworks to conform to the ILO’s child labour Conventions. Since 2004, in its regular review of the application of Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, the ILO’s Committee of Experts has seen a seven-fold increase in the number of comments noting progress.

    At the country-level, the ILO has implemented more than 200 projects aimed at tackling child labour.

    - Over the past 15 years, nearly one million children have been withdrawn or prevented from entering child labour by virtue of ILO projects in almost 110 countries all over the world.

    - The total number of girls and boys in child labour dropped 30% from 246 million in 2000 to 152 million in 2017.

  2. Social protection

    The ILO works with countries to extend social protection in two ways: by pushing for the rapid implementation of national social protection floors of basic social security guarantees that ensure universal access to essential health care and income security while also improving existing social protection schemes to provide higher levels of benefits, progressively, to as many people as possible.

    Over the past ten years, the ILO has supported the development of:
    - Social protection floors in 136 countries
    - National social protection strategies in 34 countries
    - Health protection in 30 countries
    - Child benefits in 21 countries
    - Maternity benefits in 20 countries
    - Unemployment insurance schemes in 20 countries
    - Public employment programmes in 31 countries
    - Old-age pensions in 43 countries

  3. Employment intensive investment

    Employment-intensive investments link infrastructure development with employment creation, poverty reduction and local economic and social development.

    - Timor-Leste: Since March 2012, the ILO’s R4D programme has created 611,000 work days of direct short-term jobs. This translates to a cash transfer into the local economy of about USD 4 million.
    - Nepal: Since March 2014, the ILO has supported local infrastructure development in 33 districts – home to more than half of the population of Nepal. Following the earthquake in April 2015, the coverage will be extended to another 3 districts.
    - Somalia: The UN Joint Programme on local governance and decentralized service delivery, where the ILO played a key role, led to the creation of 136,500 work days and benefited the most vulnerable. A project focusing on Somali refugee returnees and a youth for change initiative has provided almost 43,000 work days.

  4. Better Work

    Better Work – an ILO/IFC programme set up in 2009 – has improved conditions in factories employing more than 3 million workers by engaging with more than 60 global garment brands and 1,500 factories.

    - Jordan: Migrant workers are now represented in an industry-wide collective agreement; factories have seen a 50% improvement in compliance of occupational safety and health requirements and 100% improvement in paying correct minimum wages and benefits. The programme has reached 65,000 workers in 77 factories involving 23 brands and retailers.
    - Cambodia: Programme impacts are multiplied as many of the 550,000 workers send their earnings home to help their families, who, in turn use these funds to pay for education for younger siblings and medical bills. The programme has reached 550 factories involving 49 brands and retailers.
    - Lesotho: Better Work has helped ensure that 100% of the factories involved have eliminated HIV/AIDS discrimination.
    - Viet Nam: 65% of Better Work factories have seen a rise in total sales, 62% have increased production capacity, and 60% have expanded employment. . The programme has reached 691,000 workers in 502 factories involving 57 brands and retailers.