ILO Launches Ratification Campaign to Broaden Adoption of its Key Employment Services Conventions

Emphasizing the critical importance of public and private employment services to achieve robust labour markets and a human-centered and job-rich recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization has launched a targeted effort to increase ratifications of two key conventions among its member States.

News | 25 May 2022
At a webinar held on 12 May 2022, the organization presented the campaign to encourage more countries to ratify and implement ILO Employment Service Convention, 1948 (No. 88) and Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181). C88 calls on governments to maintain a free nationwide public employment service, and C181 establishes the effective regulation of private employment agencies and the protection of workers and employers that use their services.

While C88 was adopted a half-century before C181 and has more than twice the number of ratifications, “it is clear that wider ratification and effective implementation of both conventions are crucial to support resilient dynamic and inclusive labour markets that are better fit to deliver decent work and full employment for all,” said Denis Pennel, Executive Director of the World Employment Confederation, in remarks delivered during the webinar. “These two instruments are really complement each other.”

At the event, senior ILO officials laid out the campaign objectives, which centered on promoting the fundamental roles of both public and private employment services as the most cost-effective labour market interventions to match workers with jobs and enhance their employability, while helping employers find the workers with the skills they need.

“The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of the importance of these two Conventions and how they can lead to better services and outcomes while minimizing abuse and exploitation of working people, as well as to raise awareness of the technical support that the ILO can provide to its member States to help them prepare for their ratification and implementation,” said Michael Mwasikakata, Head of Labour Market Services for Transitions Unit at the ILO.
In his presentation, Mr. Mwasikakata identified the key partners in member States that the ratification campaign will target to carry the campaign’s messages, most notably leadership and staff at labour ministries, parliamentarians and other elected officials, and representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations. The ILO intends to support activities with campaign materials, including country-level stories and case studies, making the case for ratification of both conventions.

“Ratifying a convention… [by] member States … can be seen as an opportunity to highlight at an international level its own priorities in the field of labour standards and to encourage and give moral support to other countries that are putting efforts to implement … Conventions 88 and 181,” said Maria Paz Anzorreguy, Director for ILO Coordination from the International Organisation of Employers.

At the campaign launch webinar, representatives from the governments of Ethiopia, France, Japan, and Uruguay – countries that have ratified one or both C88 and C181 – discussed their experiences in aligning national labour laws with the conventions and how doing so has helped them respond to labour market changes and skills gaps resulting from economic and technological transformations.

Dawit M. Dame, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Skill of Ethiopia, explained how his government has worked for three decades to build public employment services to meet the needs of job seekers, including more than 1,800 one-stop services providing unemployment registration, job-matching, and skills guidance. “Today we are working to upgrade those with digital services through our public employment centers, and to expand and deepen support for self-employed and entrepreneurs, with a focus on youth,” he said.

Ryo Takahashi, Deputy Director of the Employment Security Bureau’s Demand and Supply Adjustment Division for Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, discussed how adopting and implementing C181 has enabled his country to manage the rapid rise in the number of private employment placement agencies, which has increased five-fold in recent years to 28,000, as well as worker dispatch agencies, which more than tripled to 45,000.

Both Daniel Pérez, National Employment Director of Uruguay’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and Ivane Squelbut, Directrice de Partenariats et de la Territorialisation of France, emphasized the importance of collaboration between public and private entities in advancing employment-related goals.

“We are very interested in promoting cooperation between public employment services and private employment agencies to achieve decent work, share and disseminate information and address employment with proper terminology to improve transparency and the functioning of the labour market, promote joint-projects for vocational training, and exchange vacancy announcements for workers and enterprises that could favour job-placement, income, and even mobility in the labour market,” said Mr. Pérez.

“Public-private partnerships are essential to public employment services because they allow them to remain central to employment and to guarantee non-discrimination and equality, and also to promote, coordinate and implement actions that work in the labour market,” said Ms. Squelbut.

Most participants in the webinar highlighted the key role of both public and private employment services in responding to economic crises, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated unemployment, underemployment, inactivity and skills mismatches across sectors.

Read more on the event page and get in touch for more information about the campaign: