The Changing Role of Labour Ministries: Influencing Labour, Employment and Social Policy

Within this broad framework of promoting good governance at national level, labour ministries have a pivotal role as they can influence governance from the level of the workplace to the wider labour market and at national level. This Paper documents how labour ministries in a number of countries have adapted and responded to the current challenges using new methods of performance management and evaluation, evidence based policy-making and other public administration reforms. The paper also examines how social dialogue at national level has played a positive role in this public policy and institutional reform process.

Attempts to describe, explain and compare the role of labour ministries in different
countries face a number of challenges. First among these is the fact that the functions
normally associated with labour ministries are distributed across national systems of public
administration in different ways – indeed some countries lack a government body that can
meaningfully be described as a Ministry of Labour. Secondly, national political economies
and their development over time vary considerably, as do the objectives of national
governments. The task of comparing the respective degrees of success with which different
labour ministries reach their objectives is therefore made more difficult to the extent that
policies and policy goals may differ substantially. Thirdly, and related to the preceding
point, the form, function and influence of labour ministries at any time can only be
adequately grasped if broader economic, social and political factors are taken into
consideration. To give one example, the extent to which labour ministries act to promote
the interests of workers is dependent on the extent to which the State regards the interests
of workers as legitimate and the balance of social forces.