Liberalization of social services: Impact on workers' socio-economic security

(A joint project of ILO-SES and Public Services International (PSI)
WHAT IFP/SES has launched a research project to examine the implications for workers' socio-economic security from the liberalization of social services (including privatization and decentralization) in the following areas:
  1. pensions
  2. public employment services
  3. education
  4. labour market training
  5. health services (including mental health services and nursing home provision
  6. criminal care services (particularly prisons)
  7. care work services
More specifically, the project is exploring the following questions:
  1. What are the mechanisms leveraging the liberalization of social services? What roles are the international financial agencies playing? How do foreign firms enter the market for provision of services? What is the impact of GATS on these services?
  2. What is the impact on clients receiving services? Is equity improved or worsened as a result of liberalization?
  3. What is the impact of liberalization on the quality of services?
  4. How are existing patterns and types of investment in health care, higher education, employment services, pension schemes, care work, and criminal care services influencing the seven forms of socio economic security for workers providing those services?
  5. What kinds of control are being imposed on workers in social services, and on the populations needing services?
WHERE Asia, Africa, Latin America, as well as industrialised countries.
METHODOLOGY Under the project a network of global experts in the particular service areas has been built, with background research undertaken in each area. A survey instrument specific to the needs of this investigation has been developed. It will be sent to PSI's global affiliates, in multiple languages. The survey aims to capture the experience of public service trade unions with liberalization in countries around the world.

The project will draw on data from the Programme's Peoples' Security Surveys (PSS) and Enterprise Labour Flexibility Surveys (ELFS); from results of a project undertaken by Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) in 2000-2 and the results of the PSIRU- United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) project on 'Understanding the strategies of multinational health care companies in Europe and Asia'.

It will draw from the results of the ILO-SES/PSI research that looked at the experience of health workers in Eastern and Central Europe during the last decade, as well as research being undertaken by OECD, Education International, and other relevant bodies examining the effect of changes in social service provision on users and social service workers.

OUTPUTS A technical workshop is planned for 2005 to launch a book consisting of the research commissioned under this project, and to present initial findings from the global survey of PSI affiliates.
CONTACT Ellen Rosskam, E:mail:

Updated by LD. Approved by GS. Last update: 29 April 2004.