ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

271st Session
Geneva, March 1998


Date, place and agenda of the 88th Session (2000)
of the Conference





  1. Human Resources Training and Development: Vocational Guidance and Vocational Training
  2. Investment and employment
  3. Promotion of cooperatives
  4. The settlement of labour disputes
  5. Prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace
  6. Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases (including the revision of the list of occupational diseases, Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121))
  7. Safety and health in agriculture
  8. Basic social security standards
  9. Youth employment


1. In accordance with the provisions adopted by the Governing Body at its 254th Session (November 1992),1 it is proposed that the 88th Session (2000) of the International Labour Conference should open on Tuesday, 6 June 2000.


2. It is proposed that the session be held in Geneva.


3. The Conference will have before it the following standing items:

4. The agenda of the 87th Session (1999) of the Conference, as determined by the Governing Body at its 268th Session (March 1997), includes the following three items: (1) child labour (second discussion); (2) revision of the Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95) (first discussion); and (3) the role of the ILO in technical cooperation (general discussion).

5. The Programme and Budget for 1998-99, for budgetary purposes and without prejudging the Governing Body's decision, foresees that a total of three technical items may be placed on the Conference agenda in 2000.2 As a second discussion is due to take place in 2000 on the revision of the Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95), the Governing Body would at its present session only have to choose two technical items to complete the agenda of the 88th Session (2000) of the Conference.

6. At its 270th Session (November 1997), the Governing Body examined a paper prepared by the Office containing a draft portfolio of proposals for the initial discussion on the Conference agenda for the year 2000.3 After discussing it, at the request of the Employers' group the Governing Body added the topic of youth employment to the portfolio. It also selected a short list of items for more detailed discussion at the present session, and decided to request law and practice reports, or more detailed proposals, on the following nine subjects:

  1. Human resources development: Vocational guidance and vocational training.
  2. Investment and employment.
  3. Promotion of cooperatives.
  4. The settlement of labour disputes.
  5. The prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.
  6. Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases (including the revision of the list of occupational diseases, Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121)).
  7. Safety and health in agriculture.
  8. Basic social security standards.
  9. Youth employment.

7. Further revisions.In addition, the Governing Body could, if it wished, include directly on the agenda of the 88th Session of the Conference (2000) the revision of one or more existing standards on the basis of the recommendations of the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards in its report to the Governing Body at its current session. At its session in November 1997, the Governing Body referred to the possibility of revising the Maximum Weight Convention, 1967 (No. 127), or the Benzene Convention, 1971 (No. 136).

8. It will be recalled that items 2, 3, 4 and 6 were the subject of previous proposals made to the Governing Body at its 268th Session (March 1997).4 Each of these contributions has been modified to update it. The contributions on all nine of the proposals listed above are hence included in the present paper.

9. In accordance with the requests made by a number of constituents during discussions, the above list of items in no way predetermines the type of action that could be taken on them at the Conference in 2000. However, items 3, 5, 6 and 7 are submitted with a view to standard setting. Items 2, 4 and 9 are submitted for general discussion. Items 1 and 8 could be the subject of general discussions with a possible view to subsequent standard setting.

10. In view of developments since the Governing Body's session in November 1997 regarding both the recommendations of the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards of the LILS Committee and the amendments to the Conference Standing Orders adopted by the Governing Body, a second paper is submitted to the Governing Body at its present session containing proposals for the withdrawal of five Conventions that have never come into force. The proposals in that paper have no relevance to the number of technical items to be chosen by the Governing Body in determining the agenda of the 88th Session (2000) of the Officers of the Governing Body.

11. Special event to mark the year 2000.The Employers' group proposed that a special summit should be organized at the 2000 session of the International Labour Conference to launch reflection on the role of the ILO in the third millennium. This proposal was supported by a number of governments. The Workers' group acknowledged the value of holding such an event, but only in so far is it did not detract from the normal progress of work at the Conference. A number of proposals were made concerning the theme of such an event, in particular employment, fundamental human rights in the workplace and social justice.

12. Adding to the portfolio.A number of constituents requested that emphasis be placed on a number of questions that were not retained on the short list for discussion at the present session. In particular, the question of the organization of working time received support from several governments. One government officially requested that this item be included on the Conference agenda, including the possible revision of the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 1), the Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention, 1930 (No. 30). Several members of the Governing Body also expressed the wish that the Office should accelerate its research work on some of the subjects in the draft portfolio, such as the prevention of biological hazards in the workplace, the role of the ILO in the reconstruction of conflict-affected countries, and the employment of women.

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1.  Human resources training and development:
Vocational guidance and vocational training


It is proposed that a general discussion on the topic of human resources training and development be placed on the agenda of the International Labour Conference at its 88th Session in 2000 with a view to the possible elaboration of a new instrument by the Conference at its 89th Session in 2001. The proposal is the outcome of discussions in the Governing Body, comments received from member States regarding possible items that could be discussed at future Conferences, and preliminary research undertaken by the Office to assess whether the Human Resources Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142), and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 150), adequately address contemporary issues of training policy and system reform in member States. The findings of these activities suggest that Convention No. 142 may not need to be revised for the time being. Conversely, the Recommendation has been overtaken by economic and social developments during the last two decades. It offers insufficient guidance to countries that engage in training policy and system reforms. The purpose of the general discussion proposed for the Conference in 2000 is therefore to consider new requirements for training policy and, on that basis, to guide the Office in preparing new standards that could be submitted for a possible adoption at its 89th Session in 2001.

Human resources training and development in the context of an increasingly integrated world economy

13. Globalization provides new opportunities and poses risks for workers, enterprises and the economy as a whole. To seize the opportunities and to alleviate the risks, a policy response is required that includes human resources training and development as one of its key components.

14. The liberalization of trade, investments and capital flows are making the world economy increasingly integrated. With the growth of global production systems, there has been a marked increase in intra-firm trade in intermediate products, subcontracting, licensing, franchising and outsourcing arrangements across national frontiers. The pace of technological change and product obsolescence are shortening product life-cycles and inducing enterprises to introduce flexible production systems, such as flexible automation and small batch production, in order to remain competitive in international and domestic markets. The forthcoming issue of World Employment for 1998-99, with the theme of "Training for Employment", will analyse these trends and their implications for training policies and systems worldwide.

15. The move towards more flexible production systems involves a change in the organization of work. Responsibility and decision-making are increasingly devolved to employees, who often work in teams. Flat corporate hierarchies, interdepartmental collaboration, teamwork and rewards for innovation are the code words for rapid response to changes in market demand.

16. Flexible production systems and new patterns of organizing work offer an advantage to workers who have a good basic education and are trainable and versatile in multiple technical skills, but also possess the communication and behavioural skills necessary to work in a team and can think logically and solve problems.

17. Meanwhile, technological innovation is also having an impact on work and skills in major sectors other than manufacturing, such as agriculture, infrastructure and services (banking, transport, communications, and governmental services). Together with the informal sector in developing countries, these sectors continue to account for the bulk of the employed labour force. In these sectors, linked to manufacturing, the removal of bottlenecks and improvements in efficiency by tapping new technologies can improve productivity while offering scope for employment generation. Training to meet new skill requirements in these sectors will therefore loom importantly in countries' efforts to seize the opportunities that globalization offers.

18. However, competition on a global scale may also contain dangers for labour as enterprises endeavour to minimize costs, for example through corporate restructuring, downsizing and outsourcing, and through the accompanying growth of non-standard forms of work, such as part-time and temporary work. The spectre of insecurity and unemployment affects, in particular, women, unskilled workers and those whose skills are becoming obsolete as technology changes.

19. It is widely held that work and employment become increasingly knowledge- and skill-intensive as national economies and enterprises pursue the goals of increased productivity and competitiveness. Employment outcomes tend to become more and more determined by the skills and knowledge individuals possess. As globalization gathers pace, countries endeavour to improve the efficiency of the labour force while ensuring equality of access to human resources training and development and particular support to disadvantaged groups in society, such as the long-term unemployed and displaced workers. In particular, older and poorly educated workers may find it difficult to adapt to the new and higher skills demanded in the job market. A major challenge is to find adequate solutions for such workers to maintain their employability and to enable them to make a decent living, solutions which may include training and retraining. The achievement of the efficiency and equity goals of training will demand increased collective and individual investments in human resources training and development in the context of training policy and system reforms.

Towards training policy and system reform

20. Many countries are starting to implement far-reaching reforms to make human resources training and development respond more effectively and equitably to the challenges of globalization. Human resources training receives increasing attention in the media, policy statements and public awareness.

21. The reforms launched in both industrialized and developing countries have several common threads. A major task is to develop a common vision among major stakeholders (i.e. the State and the social partners, but also other organizations and individuals representing civil society) of human resources training and of the development of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. As the State retreats from its former role as a major financier and purveyor of training programmes, the challenge is to forge a new partnership between the State, the enterprise sector, trade unions and other stakeholders in training. The partnership comprises three major areas: training policy and system development; the financing of training; and delivery of training programmes. In all these areas multipartite dialogue is the means to achieve consensus on the national training effort and increase the resources allocated to it.

22. The second major element of reform is the construction of a policy and institutional framework for the initial and continuous training of the workforce in response to economic and social change. Subsequent to educational reforms, young people today are increasingly educated. At the same time, many traditional, low-skilled entry-level jobs have disappeared. Reforms have therefore focused on programmes to combat youth unemployment by means of training and creating the conditions and mechanisms that will ensure a smooth transition for young people from school to work. Countries are also moving towards a system of continuous training while exploiting the opportunities offered by the training market. Continuous training is seen as a major instrument to help workers adapt to new skill requirements and enterprises to become more competitive in increasingly integrated world markets. Today, both individuals and enterprises consider training to be an investment in human resources.

23. However, despite much rhetoric about the need for increased investment in both initial and continuous training, the actual volume of training has often been inadequate in preparing the workforce for the challenges that lie ahead. Public spending controls and enterprise restructuring have reduced the resources allocated to training or targeted them in such a way that available resources do not reach everyone in a satisfactory and equitable manner. Often, the most disadvantaged groups see their access to training and training resources made increasingly difficult, thus accelerating their exclusion process. The challenge of diversifying and enlarging the resource base for training is a political, economical and social issue. The increased flexibility of labour markets and uncertainties in national economies also pose new challenges in terms of incentives and returns on investment made for training at all levels: the individual, the enterprise and the State. This problem needs to be addressed through the development of a new vision of shared investment between the State, the enterprise and the individual, each with its complementary objectives and values, in order to build a better equilibrium and improve access at all levels to the continuum represented by education, initial training and lifelong training.

The contribution of human resources training and development to economic growth with equity

24. Training can play a major role in promoting economic growth with equity; it benefits both individuals and enterprises and the economy and society at large; and it can make labour markets function better.

25. Training helps individuals develop their capabilities and upgrade their skills and is a crucial source of flexibility and adaptability in today's rapidly changing labour markets. Training improves their prospects of finding and retaining a job; improves their productivity at work, their income-earning capacity and living standards; and widens their career choices and opportunities. By reducing social vulnerability and exclusion, human resources training contributes to equity of access to employment. Enterprises also benefit, as training improves workers' productivity and raises competitiveness and profits. The economy benefits from training, by making it more productive, innovative and competitive. Training can help remove skill mismatches by sector, region and occupation. Rapid economic growth and social progress in many countries have been invariably accompanied by large investments in education and training. Certification and recognition of skills and competencies gained after training provide both employers and workers with valuable information that makes labour markets function more efficiently. Finally, training provides an important contribution towards a cleaner environment by responding to skill demands associated with improving environmental standards in the production of goods and services.

26. Human resources training and development can thus significantly contribute to economic growth with equity. However, human resources development cannot achieve this objective on its own, but must constitute an integral element of economic and social policies, including macroeconomic policies, that promote employment-based and equitable economic and social development.

ILO standard-setting activities in the area of human resources development

27. The major ILO instruments in the area of human resources development and training are Convention No. 142 and Recommendation No. 150. They tend to cover the totality of aspects concerning vocational training and guidance at various levels and have replaced the Vocational Training Recommendation, 1962 (No. 117), which had itself replaced a series of specific standards developed since 1939, particularly the Vocational Training Recommendation, 1939 (No. 57), the Apprenticeship Recommendation, 1939 (No. 60), and the Vocational Training (Adults) Recommendation, 1950 (No. 88).

28. Many other instruments also recognize the contribution of training and guidance to the pursuit of employment, working conditions and equitable treatment and some are closely related, including: the Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140), and Recommendation (No. 148); the Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation, 1955 (No. 99), and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention, 1983 (No. 159), and Recommendation (No. 168); the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138); the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), and Recommendation (No. 111); the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122); and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), and Recommendation (No. 90).

29. Recent discussions in the Governing Body on future standard-setting activities suggest that human resources development and training receive top priority and that the instruments on human resources development, particularly Recommendation No. 150, be modernized and adapted to socio-economic developments and changes in training policies, and in training and vocational guidance systems organization and practices, together with a reinforcement of technical assistance to promote their application. Several national studies completed during the last biennium (1996-97) also drew this conclusion, and they constitute, with other regular programme research outputs, a strong basis for the preparation of a discussion paper on these issues to be presented to the Conference in 2000 for a general discussion on human resources development and training. This was confirmed during the 270th Session in November 1997 of the Governing Body when the draft portfolio was discussed. The proposal on human resources development was selected with the support of employers, workers and 19 governments.

30. Adopted in 1975, Convention No. 142 and Recommendation No. 150 mirror the prevailing economic and social conditions of that period. Then, most countries pursued planned economic, social and industrialization policies, the information technology revolution was still in its infancy, work organization in enterprises was largely based on Taylorist principles, and the labour force was employed in secure wage jobs. While Convention No. 142, which is rather general, can still be regarded as valid, Recommendation No. 150 is clearly outdated.

31. Recommendation No. 150 reflects the planning paradigm of that period, while giving little room for demand and labour market considerations; it provides little or no guidance on many issues that, nowadays, are central to training policy and system reforms being undertaken by member States at present. These issues comprise, for example, the policy, governance and regulatory framework of training; the respective role of other stakeholders than the State, e.g. the private sector, the social partners and civil society, in policy formulation and training delivery; the scope and mechanisms for diversifying and tapping alternative sources of financing training; devising appropriate mechanisms and methods to target training programmes at particular groups; the shift away from training for "qualifications" towards the development and recognition of "competencies" that comprise a wide range of work-related knowledge, technical and behavioural skills, and attitudes; and the increasing need to focus skill development activities on preparing workers for self-employment and the informal sector.

Suggested issues for a general discussion

32. Should the Governing Body decide to include an item on human resources training and development on the agenda of the Conference for a preliminary general discussion, the following issues could be topics that the Conference may wish to address:

33. In conclusion, it is suggested to hold a general discussion at the International Labour Conference in 2000 on the topic "Human resources training and development" that could guide the Office in the preparation of possible new instruments. Should it be decided, a new Recommendation could be prepared under a single discussion procedure for adoption at the 89th Session of the International Labour Conference in 2001. This would not preclude the Conference from deciding on the elaboration of new instruments in the form of a Convention and/or Recommendation under the regular double discussion procedure. In the event that the present proposal would be placed on the agenda for the Conference in 2000, the Office would reprogramme activities in order to undertake the required preparatory work during the present (1998-99) biennium.

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2.  Investment and employment


It is proposed to hold a general discussion on a series of issues triggered by the conclusions adopted by the Conference in June 1996, which emphasized that investment lies behind many of the ILO's principal concerns. Without sustained and well-selected investment, social policy goals are difficult to reach. It is important to be clear on the nature of investment, the factors that lie behind the decision to invest and the impact it has on employment. The following discusses the impact of investment on output and employment growth; enterprise decisions on investment; the interaction of the public and private sectors; and foreign direct investment. The proposal concludes with a list of suggested issues for discussion.

Business investment is a crucial element in the promotion of employment. To be most effective it has to take place in an appropriate policy environment and to reflect local factor endowments and labour markets. Foreign investment can be crucial in introducing new techniques and working practices and in breaking into export markets. The government can encourage investment in a variety of ways, principally through the provision of infrastructure and the right fiscal, financial and legal environment. Policy in foreign investment needs to respect the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, which calls for some active steps on the government's side to maximize the contribution of foreign investment to development. Worker-management cooperation can also contribute to positive decisions by both local and foreign companies on expanding businesses and building new plants. In this respect human resources and physical capital may need to expand in tandem. Any related threat of labour displacement associated with investment in more productive equipment should be identified early on. Investment in local level infrastructure and by small and medium enterprises can be particularly generative of employment, and means of stimulating it that respect good industrial relations practices should be further developed.


34. Investment is a crucial element in the process of output growth. As such, it is a precondition for the improvement of both wages and the quality of employment. Poor investment performance can be a very serious obstacle to employment growth, especially in periods of structural adjustment. Indeed, the disparity in investment performance between different regions is a major factor in explaining their varying employment levels. Economies in transition are in particular need of investment to modernize their economies. Furthermore, the nature of investment, its location and any possible "skill bias" associated with it, may have consequences on the level of employment.

35. Investment by definition requires savings. A high level of both savings and investments is desirable. Savings that finance investment can come from abroad through various channels, including direct foreign investment, so that a country can invest more than it saves. A large number of countries with slow growth have generated few domestic savings but have relied heavily on foreign borrowing, in the form of commercial borrowing or concessionary flows. The level of their domestic investment is often too low to ensure sustainable output growth or to raise the quality of employment. In the recent past, however, many countries with fast growth and a good record of employment creation have relied very little on foreign savings and have generated their own resources to finance a high level of domestic investment. In general, larger international flows of capital should increase the overall efficiency of resource allocation as well as of investment.

36. As conventionally measured, investment is a very mixed category, comprising equipment and machinery, residential and non-residential buildings, land improvement and other forms of infrastructure development, such as roads and harbours. Some of these elements are crucial to the growth of output and employment, while others may appear as a result of growth. Similarly, many factors which might rightly be regarded as playing an essential role in a country's development are not regarded as investment as measured in the national income statistics. These include, for example, human resources (i.e. the process by which individuals acquire skills). Although this process of skill acquisition fits uneasily within the normal income accounting framework, its parallel with physical investment must be acknowledged. Indeed, expenditure on education and training can exceed that on new productive capital assets.

37. It has been established that there is a fairly strong relationship between certain types of investment, such as investment in equipment and machinery, and economic growth. This relationship suggests that efforts should be made to promote this type of investment. A good policy framework is needed, however, to ensure that the efficiency of investment, and hence the returns on investment, are optimal. With a bad policy framework, privileged access to credit and loanable funds for favoured enterprises can result in over-investment in one area and under-investment in another, resulting in labour being starved of capital in certain sectors.

38. The Conference conclusions singled out the need for an enabling global environment in order to achieve full employment. In the context of promoting investment, the call for economic and financial stability and for open economic and trade policies is crucial. Also of essential importance is the conclusion that the globalization of financial markets should lead to productive investment, and not financial speculation.

The enterprise investment decision

39. Most discussion of what drives investment has been framed in terms of decisions taken by a firm on whether to extend or modify its capital stock. Issues relating to labour market regulation have usually been ignored. Public sector and household sector enterprises have been assumed to behave in broadly the same way as incorporated private sector enterprises. However, the former are both likely to pursue somewhat different objectives from private enterprises in general, and often face different constraints, especially as regards employment. In the past, discussion on the determinants of investment generally ignored decisions on relocation abroad, since this was rarely considered an option. Clearly, many different considerations have come into play in recent years. The focus on globalization, including the reduction of trade barriers, lower transport costs and the lower costs involved in supervision and quality control, has opened up many more options to investors. In particular, this has given much greater weight to the consideration of relative labour costs and, in many instances, to different degrees of environmental protection and health and safety standards in deciding on the location of production. Many more workers are now integrated into the global market-place than before.

40. In the past, there has been no need to address explicitly the issue of labour market regulation in relation to investment decisions in the private sector, especially in industrialized countries. In developing countries, however, the situation has often been different, as labour legislation is more difficult to implement and the extent of poverty has often caused an extremely wide range of wage rates to emerge across the formal, informal and agricultural sectors, a difference greater than would be justified by relative productivity levels. The extent of labour market segmentation, and indeed of the implementation of labour legislation, can then affect the scale and location of investment decisions and the amount and quality of employment generated.

41. It has always been acknowledged that greater investment leads to greater employment in the production process only if the new investment is not labour-saving to the same degree. It has often been assumed that if workers are displaced because a new investment is labour-saving, they are automatically absorbed elsewhere. Clearly, this process is far from smooth. In addition, the technology incorporated into the investment has often been assumed to reflect research into new processes which take into account only domestic resources and skill availability, and which are therefore "appropriate" for countries' skill levels.

42. In developing countries, it has long been known that some technologies embedded in new investment goods could well be inappropriate in terms of the country's endowment of capital and skills. Investment would then have weak or negative effects on employment. In addition, increasing wage inequality in some industrialized countries also suggests that much new investment in those countries is complementary to more highly skilled labour and disregards the availability of unskilled labour. Less and less unskilled labour is then required in the productive process.

Public and private sector interaction

43. The ways in which public policy in general interacts with private investment decisions relate to the expectations engendered by the government's overall policy framework and the success of these in encouraging investment, especially where one act of investment is a precondition for others. They also concern the wide range of measures that governments must in any case undertake to ensure broad-based private sector investment. Various research studies on the links between public and private investment have been undertaken and have often demonstrated a positive relationship between the two. It is however difficult empirically to isolate the particular types of government investment that seem likely to induce private investment. Some of the useful forms of government expenditure concern investment, mainly in infrastructure, where bottlenecks in ports, roads and power supply can raise costs in the private sector to a prohibitive extent (see below for the role of the private sector in easing such bottlenecks).

44. Government expenditure policy can also discourage private investment. This can happen under two scenarios. On the one hand, where credit to the private sector is limited and very possibly rationed, the small-scale and household sector suffers the most and formal sector enterprises with privileged banking links are favoured. The employment consequences of this are then increased differentiation between the conditions of employment and work in formal and informal enterprises and between large and small firms. On the other hand, even when the market sets interest rates the effect can be the same. Public sector savings on current account (including the savings of public sector enterprises to the extent that their debt is guaranteed by the government) may become increasingly insufficient to cover capital payments. The public sector then has to increase its borrowing, which pushes up interest rates to a level that discourages private investment. In addition, once public borrowing reaches a certain level, the likelihood of allowing inflation to reduce the real value of government bonds increases, devaluation becomes inevitable and capital flight is encouraged. A vicious circle of stagnation ensues, with severely negative effects on employment levels.

45. The possible role that the private sector could play in easing bottlenecks in physical infrastructure has been mentioned. Three possibilities of interaction between the private sector and the public sector can be noted: management contracts for public enterprises and utilities; the construction and operation of, inter alia, roads and bridges by the private sector; and leasing. The first of these is usually a stepping-stone to privatization, so that concerns raised in the context of privatization necessarily arise, such as the issue of employment security for the workforce. In this respect the desirability of matching any fall in employment by job creation elsewhere should be recalled, as specifically mentioned in the Conference conclusions for the economies in transition. The second applies particularly to quasi-monopolies, such as power generation, toll roads and tunnels. Such monopolies can have significant effects on costs for the rest of the economy if no obvious competition is feasible: failing such competition, complicated and sensitive issues of regulation arise. The third possibility -- leasing -- has become popular where the government wishes to reduce its borrowing requirement without giving up control over operations. Private companies can then either purchase existing government assets (the purchase price being regarded as negative borrowing by the government) or build up new assets with a view to leasing them to the government. This is likely to involve some private sector management, which may reduce running costs. However, the private investor will generally have to borrow at a higher cost than the government, so that the cost reduction may well be illusory.

46. One area where government policy on investment has a considerable impact on employment, particularly in developing countries, is in the choice of technology. In the past, governments sometimes encouraged the premature mechanization of agricultural activities, with negative effects on rural employment and wages. However, the widespread real currency devaluations of the 1980s largely eliminated that concern. In the course of the decade following the debt crisis, in most developing countries imported equipment became far more expensive in terms of consumer goods and of wages. It was not always possible, however, to build on this improving cost differential in favour of labour, either because the managerial skills required to use a large labour force equipped with more basic equipment were absent, or because the overall small-scale and domestic sector was underdeveloped, underfinanced and unable to bid for government contracts. However, the potential for employment generation through labour-intensive methods with local participation remains significant, for example in urban land and building improvement projects, as well as for small-scale public works in rural areas. This point is recognized, for example, in the Employment Policy Recommendation, 1984 (No. 169). It is essential in this context for relevant labour standards on remuneration and working conditions in such activities to be applied.

Foreign direct investment

47. As mentioned earlier, the combined effect of various ongoing processes, lumped together under the heading of "globalization", has been to broaden considerably the possibilities for relocating production between countries and regions in order to serve any particular market. This process has been beneficial to employment, although many problems of adjustment arise. Success in attracting foreign direct investment to a host economy, particularly in order to serve foreign markets, has come to be seen as an accolade given to a country for its choice of economic and labour market policies. It is necessary in this respect to be clear as to the benefits that a host country and its labour force can expect from foreign direct investment (FDI). These benefits will be greater when --

  1. FDI clearly adds to domestic savings and investment and is neither confined to mergers and acquisitions nor only a negligible amount;
  2. the reform of policies that may distort the domestic industrial sector and segment the labour market is undertaken;
  3. active domestic policies on entrepreneurship development, export promotion and support for product upgrading through research and development increase the effectiveness of FDI; the sending country will also benefit directly from investment abroad when this involves the corresponding export of capital goods;
  4. attention is paid to ensuring that FDI has beneficial effects on industrial relations practices in all sectors, fully in line with the provisions of the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy;
  5. FDI becomes a dynamic source of product and process improvement in line with a country's economic progress.

48. Policies for making the most out of FDI have included such features as a minimum level of local equity participation and rules on minimum local content. A minimum level of local equity participation is usually intended as a guarantee that skills among local investors will contribute to the management of the project. Local content rules have an obvious rationale and impact on local employment. However, such regulations need to be accompanied by positive efforts to upgrade local potential input. All this suggests that an industrial policy and active intervention is needed to accompany FDI and not only, as is more usual, fiscal incentives to attract it. This is explicitly recognized in the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. With regard particularly to developing countries, the Tripartite Declaration calls on multinational enterprises to take into account governments' employment policies and objectives. In order to do so, they should adapt their technologies to the needs of the host country, develop appropriate technology and promote the processing of local raw materials. They should also participate in official training programmes and broaden the experience of local managers.

49. Finally, considerable discussion has been generated on the factors that determine the location of FDI. In this respect there is every reason to believe that the same background factors that attract private sector investment in general and encourage its expansion will attract FDI as well. These factors include political and social stability, relative price stability and a credible macroeconomic policy framework. More controversy arises over the role of labour market policies and institutions and other features, such as health and safety standards. Labour flexibility, whether in terms of the employer's ability to modify the number of workers employed and hours of work, or in terms of the workers' ability to shift between tasks or their acceptance of fluctuating incomes, is considered to be important as a determinant, over and above that of prevailing unit labour costs. It is necessary, however, to have some notion of the range over which some of these factors operate. Assuming that virtually all other costs are set internationally, the difference in unit labour costs in some industries is so great that the industries disappear from some locations unless effectively a new product is created. But even large differences in unit labour costs can be overridden by other elements of an enterprise's strategy, let alone by direct government action to attract or retain enterprises. Correspondingly, enterprises can relocate, for example, on account of taxation or environmental controls, and not unit labour costs. Slight differences in unit labour costs may be easily offset by considerations arising from economic policy in general and, indeed, by the prospects of working with a responsibly organized labour force. Concern for labour market flexibility is likely to arise principally when other differences are slight, for example in unit labour costs and in general policies. But the scale of these factors, and indeed of factors relating to health and safety and pollution, remains very difficult to assess.

Suggested issues for a general discussion at the Conference

50. Should the Governing Body decide to include an item on investment and employment on the agenda of the Conference for a general discussion, the following are some preliminary suggestions for issues that the Conference may wish to address:

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3.  Promotion of cooperatives


It is proposed that new standards concerning cooperatives should be developed. The Co-operatives (Developing Countries) Recommendation, 1966 (No. 127), concerning the role of cooperatives in the economic and social development of developing countries is the only ILO standard addressing cooperative issues in a comprehensive manner. The political, economic and social conditions which prevailed at the time Recommendation No. 127 was adopted in 1966 have changed fundamentally. The new standards could embed these changes in the equally evolved cooperative principles and values. In particular, they could aim at promoting autonomous cooperatives, and the scope of the new instruments should be universal, as new universally applicable standards in this area could enable self-help organizations to fully unfold their potential and thus help solve unemployment and social exclusion. The proposal traces the evolution of the cooperative movement in industrialized countries, former socialist countries and developing countries; outlines the new scope and universally applicable content that standards could have in this field; and concludes with a summary of the preparatory work already undertaken by the Office.


51. Paragraph 12.1(a) of Recommendation No. 127 defines a cooperative as "... an association of persons who have voluntarily joined together to achieve a common end through the formation of a democratically controlled organization, making equitable contributions to the capital required and accepting a fair share of the risks and benefits of the undertaking in which the members actively participate". This definition is universally accepted. Cooperatives play an important role in the economic, social, cultural and political development of most countries. Cooperatives significantly contribute to national economies and societies. They promote self-employment and indirectly secure employment in other types of enterprises which are buyers or suppliers of cooperative goods and services. Cooperatives are active in all branches of the economy and can be found among all professions. They are also concerned with the social well-being of their members, and that of non-members, by being active in the fields of housing, health care and care for the elderly, and in education, mainly at the primary level. These services are often provided for, on the initiative of, or in close collaboration with, employers' and workers' organizations which share these social and economic concerns with cooperatives.

52. Some 800 million people around the globe are members of cooperatives. A further 100 million people are employed by cooperatives without being members. If one adds to these figures the numbers of persons who are economically dependent on those involved in cooperative business, one realizes that a considerable proportion of the world's population satisfies its needs at least partly by or through cooperatives.

53. Despite these positive facts, it is felt that the self-help potential of cooperatives remains underutilized, even though economic and social challenges in many countries require the mobilization of all potential available.

54. Since the time of the adoption of Recommendation No. 127, political, economic and social changes have affected the situation of cooperatives throughout the world. While cooperatives seem to have a new role to play both in industrialized countries and in the former socialist countries, the focus of Recommendation No. 127 is limited to developing countries. New universal standards in this area could help enable cooperatives to develop more fully their self-help potential, placing them in a better position to meet a number of current socio-economic problems. It is therefore time to establish new international standards based on modern cooperative principles and values for the promotion of cooperatives.

55. As far as developing countries are concerned, Recommendation No. 127 mirrored the development concerns of the 1960s, especially in its approach to the role of governments and cooperatives in the development process. Today, development is not conceived as a process to imitate already industrialized countries, nor are cooperatives seen as a means in the hands of governments. In accordance with universally recognized cooperative principles, they are perceived as a means for their members to achieve their common goals.

56. In former socialist countries cooperatives were an integral part of the political system, a means of centralizing land use, employing agricultural labour and distributing consumer goods. The current privatization of the former socialist economies reaches beyond the land reform referred to in Recommendation No. 127: it involves the privatization of manufacturing facilities and service infrastructures, and involves the growth of worker-owned enterprises in all sectors of the economy. Some socialist-type cooperatives have been transformed into genuine cooperatives, while others have been bought out by individuals or by former members jointly. The ILO is receiving an increasing number of requests from developing countries and from countries in transition for assistance in cooperative organization, training and policy and legislative reform, since cooperatives have to assume an increasingly important role as a consequence of the liberalization and privatization of trade and services. The Office needs direction in the form of new standards to be able to respond to these requests.

57. In industrialized countries it is the changing structure of cooperatives and new forms of cooperatives that call for the application of new standards to this category of countries as well. The traditional structure of cooperatives is currently evolving to cope more effectively with competitive pressure from other forms of business organizations. On the other hand, the cooperative model of joint ownership and management is increasingly being used by employees to buy out their own enterprises in the transport, service and manufacturing sectors as a means of protecting and generating jobs in an era of continued downsizing resulting from globalization and technological change. At the same time, these workers increase their stakeholding in society.

58. In many countries, political, economic and social changes in general have put pressure on governments to limit their involvement in economic and social affairs. The core idea of structural adjustment programmes is a shift from public to private initiative, financing, management and responsibility. Subsequent monetary and fiscal stabilization programmes, institution building, privatization and liberalization require civil society to take a more active role in economic, social and political affairs. The State's role is increasingly limited to that of providing the political, legal and administrative framework for the development of private organizations, including cooperatives, which in turn strengthen democracy. There have been calls for new standards in this area from member States.

National law and practice

59. In a series of studies on "creating a favourable climate and conditions for cooperative development", the Office has documented national law and practice in different parts of the world outside the industrialized countries.5

60. In developing countries, cooperatives have in the past been confined to geographical areas coinciding often with administrative and district boundaries. Membership has at times been compulsory to carry out economic activities and governments have intervened in the organization and management of cooperatives by convening general assemblies and board meetings, by seconding government staff to these bodies, by taking decisions on behalf of cooperatives, by supervising employees and even elected office-bearers, by replacing them with state commissions, by defining the objectives of cooperatives, by assigning tasks, by subjecting investment and surplus distribution to their approval, by freezing cooperative bank accounts, by having the control and promotional function exercised by a government service, by creating and running secondary and tertiary cooperative organizations, by merging, dividing and dissolving cooperatives and by settling disputes without allowing appeals to ordinary courts of justice. On the other hand, governments have tended to grant to cooperatives tax privileges and easy access to credit. In general, and in accordance with the current spirit of Recommendation No. 127, cooperatives have been used as agents of government development offices, to organize production, to administer land reforms and to manage irrigation and credit schemes.

61. In the former socialist countries, there was no clear distinction between private and public in economic affairs. Accordingly, cooperatives were then organized as part of the state economic and administrative structure. They were used as an instrument to implement state economic plans and in an effort to create a socialist society.

62. In the industrialized countries, although genuine cooperatives still exist in large numbers, economic growth and growing regional integration has in some cases led to what might be termed a loss of identity. The tendency in the cooperative movement is to allow for styles of management, business behaviour and capital structure common to stock companies. This is a reaction to increased competition, mainly by stock companies at the national and international level, which because of their capital and managerial structure succeed in reacting more easily to business challenges than member-oriented cooperatives can. The search by cooperatives for better competitiveness, mainly through mergers and acquisitions, by changes in capital structure and by placing more entrepreneurial powers in professional non-member managers, has put a question mark over the character of cooperatives as democratic and member-managed business enterprises.

ILO standards and practice

63. The only comprehensive international standard on cooperatives is Recommendation No. 127. Also of relevance are the Rural Workers' Organizations Convention, 1975 (No. 141), and Recommendation (No. 149); the Employment Policy Recommendation, 1984 (No. 169); and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). These standards give examples of how specific groups may organize, including in the form of a cooperative, to what ends cooperatives may be used by their members, or they emphasize that groups living according to cultural traits which are not the ones of the majority of society should be protected in their way of organizing self-help associations, including cooperatives.

64. The ILO recognizes the importance of cooperatives in article 12 of its Constitution, which provides for consultation with cooperators -- besides employers and workers -- through their recognized international organizations. In accordance with this provision, the ILO has promoted the development of cooperatives, mainly through technical assistance and information, and has advised governments, and workers' and employers' organizations, on their role in this area. It has the largest programme of technical cooperation within the UN system for this purpose.

Purpose of new standards

65. The main purpose of new standards would be to elaborate standards of universal scope and to promote cooperative principles worldwide as a means of empowering civil society to reach social and economic goals through self-help. At a time when the changing role of governments coincides with the globalization of capital and the increasing internationalization of enterprises, it is necessary to reinstate the role of the individual in decision-making. Cooperatives serve as a model of enterprise which is member-centred, oriented towards members' needs and has a specific mechanism for the distribution of surplus. Furthermore, the purpose of the new standards would be to focus on the autonomy of cooperatives and to limit state intervention.

Contents of new standards

66. The new standards should have universal scope, since the consequences of economic, political and social changes have a bearing on all countries. For example, a common concern shared by all countries is the declining capacity to create formal wage and salary employment and to prevent social exclusion. In developing countries, structural adjustment has continued to have a negative impact on unskilled workers and low income groups. In many instances, social exclusion and poverty have accelerated. In economies in transition, the process of privatization combined with the lack of social safety nets has been accompanied by rising unemployment, lower incomes and lower social standards. In industrialized countries, slower economic growth combined with a shift towards the technologically advanced service industries, has resulted in growing economic and social exclusion, mainly among lower skilled workers in traditional industries.

67. The new standards, besides addressing governments and workers' and employers' organizations, could also address cooperatives, their unions and federations. The reference to the social partners is to emphasize their interest and responsibility for the promotion of cooperatives, while the inclusion of the cooperatives with their vertical structures is to underline their own responsibility. This responsibility includes the financing and management of their own support services, including audit and control, management training and membership education. This would better reflect the very nature of cooperatives as autonomous organizations.

68. The new standards should espouse the cooperative principles of:

69. The new standards could also place emphasis on the necessary complementarity between cooperative principles, cooperative law, and corresponding structures. Thus, for example, cooperative development presupposes an adequate administrative, banking, insurance and judicial structure and support from professional organizations. The new standards should strengthen the autonomy of cooperatives and address areas of common concern to the State and to cooperatives. The role of the government should be limited to legislation, registration, deregistration and enforcement. The management, autonomy and business viability of cooperatives have often been hampered by their being forced to join general development programmes for which they do not have the financial or human resources. Cooperatives should be allowed to develop their self-sufficiency and undertake obligations as decided by their members only. Larger goals with regard to general economic and social policy, as incorporated in Recommendation No. 127, would not be included in new standards, and all forms of discrimination against cooperatives should be excluded. A distinction could be made of different types of cooperatives in a way to include organized structures governed by the defined cooperative principles and to exclude other non-organized structures based on solidarity.

70. The importance of cooperative law for the development of cooperatives could be stressed. A distinction between the matters to be included in the law and those that may be regulated by administrative bodies could be added. Beyond any kind of separation of powers on which a political system may be based, it is important to cover basic cooperative matters by law in order to protect them from frequent political changes. Furthermore, law and administrative regulations could allow substantial issues to be regulated by cooperative members through their by-laws or statutes as an expression of their autonomy.

71. The specification of the basic issues that any cooperative law must address contained in Recommendation No. 127 could be broadened in a way that brings out the distinctive features of cooperatives as opposed to other forms of business organizations and enterprises. This concerns management, inter alia, and hence management qualifications, capital structure, the role of capital, democratic decision-making -- regardless of the size of the cooperative, and the rights and obligations of cooperative unions and federations. In this way the attention of legislators can be drawn to the need to reflect the specificities of cooperative law in other forms of legislation such as taxation, competition and labour law.

72. The new standards could embody a wider concept of cooperative human resource development and take account of the need for greater involvement of cooperative movements in planning, implementing and monitoring training programmes. Education and training could be directed towards business efficiency and skills and knowledge of cooperative principles in order to preserve cooperative identity.

73. The new standards would change the approach to governmental financial assistance, which has frequently encouraged government control of cooperatives. At the time of the adoption of Recommendation No. 127, governments were expected to exercise a predominant role in the channelling of national and international financial support to cooperatives. Today, structural adjustment programmes have led to a reduction of public financial assistance and subsidies. Cooperatives are therefore intensifying their efforts to mobilize and manage their own credit and savings schemes and their own commercial relations with other cooperatives in the free market economy -- both domestically and internationally -- and to set up a system for the mutual exchange of technical cooperation through cooperative networks. Financial support should be restricted to indirect measures, such as participation in credit guarantee funds.

74. The new standards could take into consideration the self-auditing capacity of the cooperative movements. The establishment of sound auditing practices could be advocated and supported.

75. The new standards could encourage cooperative movements and academic institutions to support research on cooperative issues and make the results known through new information technologies. The collection of reliable and standardized statistical data is also essential.

76. Finally, past experience with Recommendation No. 127 suggests ways through which the ILO would be able to monitor the implementation of new standards. The experts attending the Meeting of Experts on Cooperative Law in 1995 were of the opinion that a body should be established to foster the rights of freedom of association for cooperative members.6

Nature of new standards

77. The experts attending the ILO meetings on cooperatives in 1993 and 1995 were not unanimous as to whether a Recommendation or a Convention would be the appropriate instrument. The adoption of a Convention, possibly supplemented by a Recommendation, was considered in order to give binding force to the updated basic cooperative principles. It was suggested by others, however, that the new standards envisaged should take the form of a Recommendation. In the latter event, it is suggested that a new comprehensive Recommendation should be adopted rather than a partial revision of Recommendation No. 127. Not only is a partial revision more difficult because the coherence of the existing standard would be difficult to maintain, but more importantly, the proposed new standards are intended to express a change in basic logic.

Preparatory work

78. The ILO held a Meeting of Experts on Cooperatives in 1993 whose agenda included an item concerning an assessment of the impact of Recommendation No. 127, for which a resource paper was prepared.7 This meeting was followed by the Meeting of Experts on Cooperative Law in 1995, mentioned above, during which this was further discussed. The Office issued a number of working papers in conjunction with the two meetings. These include a series on factors leading to a favourable climate for cooperative development in Africa (1993), Asia (1994), Latin America (1996) and Central and Eastern Europe (1996); a report on the relationship between the State and cooperatives in cooperative legislation (1993); structural changes in cooperative movements and consequences for cooperative legislation in different regions of the world (1993); a review of the impact of Recommendation No. 127 (1993); a report on the impact of labour law and industrial relations on cooperative law (1995); a report on cooperative law and the regulatory role of the State (1995); a report on cooperative structure and competition law (1994); and studies on labour law and cooperatives (1995).

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4.  The settlement of labour disputes


The proposals on this subject have been modified and updated in line with the Governing Body's request and are intended for a general discussion.8 Labour disputes are inherent to all labour relations systems and therefore the effective prevention and settlement of labour disputes remains an essential requirement for sound labour relations and for creating a climate conducive to economic stability and efficiency with equity.

Many changes have occurred, particularly in the last decade, under a new workplace and economic environment in terms of the types, nature and frequency of labour disputes and the way they are prevented or resolved. While collective bargaining, conciliation, mediation and arbitration remain the principal modes of dispute settlement, new and innovative tools, techniques and approaches to negotiation and conflict resolution have been introduced in many countries and workplaces. The future of the dispute resolution system is being debated, and existing traditional structures and approaches are continuously being reassessed. Greater emphasis is now being given to the prevention of labour disputes and the promotion of labour-management collaboration and cooperation.

The proposals describe the concept and categories of labour disputes, and elaborate on the various trends, means and issues in the prevention and settlement of labour disputes. The procedures for dispute settlement and types of disputes as applied in different countries, including the relevant international labour standards, are explained. Finally, the proposals also include some of the major issues or points relating to the main topics of the proposals, which can be the focus of discussions for the effective prevention and settlement of labour disputes.


79. The effective prevention and settlement of labour disputes is a cornerstone of sound labour relations, and it is essential that appropriate machineries should exist for the purpose. Efficient mechanisms for dispute prevention and resolution help create a climate in which economic growth with equity can flourish.

80. Labour disputes or conflicts are inherent to all labour relations systems. They cannot obviously be prevented totally. What is ultimately important is the need to understand, prevent and settle them as promptly and fairly as possible.

81. The incidence of labour disputes and how they are handled and resolved vary from country to country. Different models of procedures, systems and practices in the prevention and settlement of labour disputes exist. In the new and fast-changing workplace and economic environment, the effects are far-reaching in terms of the speed, type and nature of disputes and the way they are handled. While collective bargaining, conciliation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication continue to be the principal methods of dispute settlement, new and innovative tools, techniques and approaches to negotiation and conflict resolution are now being developed, applied and studied for possible adaptation elsewhere.

82. Some of the other important developments arising from changes in the workplace scenario include the greater emphasis now being placed on the prevention of labour disputes, such as the introduction of interest-based negotiations, mutual gains bargaining, win-win negotiations and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). There are the debates on the future of the dispute resolution system (as in Australia), a continuing reassessment of the existing traditional structures and approaches (for example, in the United States), labour law reform in a number of countries, and the need for information, training and the upgrading of skills in relation to conciliation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication services, especially taking into account the changing nature of the workforce.

83. An overall review and assessment of existing systems, laws and practices, including all the new and innovative strategies and techniques with a view to promoting the effective prevention and settlement of both collective and individual labour disputes, now appears long overdue. A general discussion of the subject could prove a major step in that direction.

Categories of disputes

84. Most countries have made a distinction between several types of labour disputes, and have established separate procedures for dealing with them. The ways in which a country makes such a distinction reflect the particular historical development of its labour relations system. Classifying various types of labour disputes from a global viewpoint can therefore be difficult.

85. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify certain widely applied distinctions. The two most generally used are distinctions between rights disputes and interest disputes, on the one hand, and between individual and collective disputes on the other. The distinction between disputes over rights (or rights disputes) and disputes over interests (or interest disputes) characterizes the dispute settlement machinery of many countries. Disputes over rights are those arising over the application or interpretation of an existing provision in a contract of employment, a collective agreement or legislation; disputes over interests are those arising over the establishment or modification of rights or obligations, primarily in the context of collective bargaining and as a result of the failure of the parties to reach an agreement on conditions of employment or the relationship between them.

86. With respect to disputes over rights, a distinction is often made between individual and collective disputes, whereas disputes as to interests are generally only collective. An individual dispute typically involves the interpretation of an individual contract of employment or legislation concerning employment. Collective rights disputes include those arising over the interpretation or alleged violation of the procedural provisions of collective agreements (e.g. those providing for peace obligation during the life of a collective agreement) and of legislation (e.g. provisions concerning representative bodies of workers within undertakings).

87. In many countries, the above distinction affects both the applicable settlement procedures and the right to strike and lockout. However, the distinction between these various types of disputes is far from universal, and even where it is made it is often blurred. Thus, for example, the distinction is of very limited relevance in the United Kingdom, where the process of making new rules and that of interpreting existing rules are so intricately intertwined in collective bargaining that a dispute about existing "rights" can easily be turned into a dispute about "interests". Many of the developing countries in Asia and Africa that have inherited from the United Kingdom the broad concept of the "trade dispute" or the "industrial dispute" covering all forms of labour disputes also still rely on dispute procedures that basically cover both interest disputes and rights disputes indistinctly, although some of them have attempted to introduce such a distinction with more or less success (e.g. Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1969) and some others have set up special procedures for dealing with individual disputes over termination of employment (e.g. in Sri Lanka since 1957 and Malaysia since 1969).

88. In some other countries, such as France and French-speaking African countries, the basic distinction for the purpose of different dispute settlement procedures is between individual and collective disputes, the former always being a rights dispute, while the latter is usually an interest dispute but may also be a dispute over rights.

89. In many developing countries, various restrictions imposed on the exercise of the right to strike tend to diminish the significance of a distinction between interest disputes and rights disputes, because the possibility of recourse to industrial action normally constitutes one of the main characteristics of dispute procedures for interest disputes, in contrast with procedures for rights disputes.

90. Apart from the types of labour disputes so far mentioned, there are others that are subject to special procedures for their settlement in a significant number of countries. These include disputes over trade union recognition and disputes over "unfair labour practices", e.g. disputes related to the exercise of trade union rights.

Prevention of labour disputes

91. Traditionally, the role of institutions and officers involved in dispute settlement, such as conciliators, mediators, arbitrators and labour judges, was basically that of "firefighters" who come only after a fire -- i.e. a conflict -- has broken out, in order simply to extinguish it. There has recently been a growing recognition, however, of the importance of efforts to promote greater workplace cooperation and improve the overall relationship between the parties to enable them to solve their problems amicably. There have been strong suggestions in favour of a shift from a regime of merely reducing conflicts to one that encourages the development of collaborative labour relations, flexibility and equity.

92. In the United States, for example, mediators are today more frequently taking the initiative of assisting employers and unions through facilitation and training in joint problem-solving in ways that are beneficial to both of them. This practice has been known as "preventive mediation" for many years, but has only lately acquired growing prominence as a means of preserving and promoting peace between labour and management. The United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) has also been participating in Alternating Dispute Resolutions (ADR) or various alternatives to litigation processes, particularly by providing fact-finding, facilitation and mediation services to various federal, state and local government agencies. The services include consultation, systems design, education/training/mentoring and evaluation. In addition, the FMCS has actively implemented a Labor-Management Cooperation Program since 1981 which supports and assists labour-management committees at various levels with the objective of encouraging "joint, innovative approaches to collaborative management-labour relations and innovative problem-solving".

93. In the United Kingdom, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) usually helps with problems that have not developed into a dispute. Even where a dispute has been resolved, ACAS seeks to further understand and address the underlying cause of the dispute through the provision of advisory services. The preventive work of ACAS has been expanding especially in helping small and medium-sized enterprises put together best practices for partnership.

94. The dispute settlement bodies that have been established recently in some countries such as Ireland and South Africa also place emphasis on the importance of the prevention of labour disputes. In the Philippines, the current programme of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board includes the more frequent recourse to preventive mediation and the promotion of labour-management cooperation. In Singapore, the Conciliation Section of the labour ministry also fosters close labour-management relations and provides advisory service to unions and employers on industrial relations issues. In Canada, training in interest-based bargaining has been provided, on an experimental basis, as a means of preventive mediation, while in France the need for more experience in preventive mediation has been recognized, especially in dealing with recurring disputes.

95. It has been pointed out that probably the best way of preventing and resolving labour disputes is through the strengthening of bilateral relations between labour and management and the development of a more collaborative and cooperative relationship. This then enables the parties to deal with and avoid problems themselves through collective bargaining, bilateral negotiations and joint problem-solving approaches.

96. Much could be learned through study, research and discussion of the ways of preventing disputes and the best and most effective means of doing so in the context of various industrial relations systems.

Procedures for the settlement of labour disputes

97. Procedures for the settlement of labour disputes vary widely. The relevant ILO Conventions and Recommendations, referred to below, leave ample room for individual countries to design their own systems of dispute settlement, consisting in different procedures for dealing with different types of disputes.

Disputes over interests

98. The basic principle underlying the procedures for settling this type of dispute is that they are to be resolved by the parties themselves through negotiation, if necessary involving the threat or use of industrial action, and that outsiders should eventually be called upon to intervene only to assist the parties in finding a mutually acceptable solution to their differences. However, this principle has been significantly modified in most developing countries where the governments play an active role in dispute settlement in order to ensure that the outcome of collective bargaining or dispute resolution is compatible with their economic policies, and to reduce the incidence of industrial action which they generally regard as detrimental to economic development and political stability. In times of economic difficulty, the principle has on occasion been similarly modified in some industrialized market-economy countries.

(a)  Conciliation and mediation

99. The most widely used procedures for settling disputes over interests are conciliation and mediation. These are procedures whereby a third party provides assistance to the parties in negotiations to help them reach an agreement. In many countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they are mainly provided by government conciliation services, or, more rarely, by labour inspectors. In a number of industrialized countries, on the other hand, bodies largely independent of the government have been established for conciliation and mediation, such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the United Kingdom, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in the United States, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), the Conciliation Board in Denmark as well as the Labour Relations Commissions in Japan. In most industrialized market-economy countries, conciliation is the only procedure generally available for the settlement of collective interest disputes, and it has proved to be very effective, resulting in a vast majority of disputes being resolved at this stage.

100. While in many countries the terms "conciliation" and "mediation" are used interchangeably, in some countries a distinction is made between them according to the degree of initiative taken by the third party. Thus, for example, ACAS in the United Kingdom normally conducts "conciliation" in a quiet and confidential atmosphere and attempts to facilitate negotiations between the parties; it normally refrains from making proposals. However, where "mediation" is considered appropriate and the parties agree to it, ACAS may appoint as mediators independent persons, who in turn make precise recommendations for a possible solution. Other examples are found in Chile and the Dominican Republic, where a distinction between conciliation and mediation is made in the labour legislation. In Chile the term "mediation" also refers to the use of a conciliator empowered to propose the terms of a settlement. However, in the Dominican Republic the terms "conciliation" and "mediation" are used depending on the type of dispute at issue, rather than the type of settlement procedure.

101. The establishment of independent bodies is usually meant to inspire greater confidence among the social partners in the neutrality of the conciliation machinery. The need to inspire confidence among the parties has also influenced the structure of such bodies in many countries. Thus, for example, the Labour Relations Commissions in Japan and the Governing Council of ACAS are composed of equal numbers of employer and trade union representatives and of independent members. Similarly, conciliators in Denmark are, in practice, all nominated jointly by trade unions and employers' organizations.

102. The autonomy of employers and trade unions in conciliation is far-reaching in Germany, where mediation procedures have been set up in most branches of activity by agreements between the parties to collective agreements, and are composed of an equal number of representatives from the employers' association and the trade union concerned, as well as a neutral chairperson. Similar systems of conciliation have also been established for particular branches of industry in Belgium and Switzerland.

103. A number of developing and newly industrializing countries have also set up tripartite bodies with responsibility for conciliation. For example, in many countries in Central and Latin America, such bodies have been in existence for many years (e.g. Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela).

104. Conciliation is voluntary where the parties are free to use or not to use it, and compulsory where they are required to make use of it. For example, in Belgium, France, Hungary, the United States and the United Kingdom, both parties must consent to the use of conciliation. In Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore and South Africa, conciliation is compulsory either because the law provides that disputes must be submitted to conciliation, conciliation officers can initiate proceedings, or the right to strike or lockout is contingent on first attempting to resolve the dispute through conciliation. However, whether conciliation is compulsory or voluntary, it is meant to assist the parties in settling their differences by agreement, without the conciliator being able to impose any solution upon the parties.

105. In the light of changes in the industrial relations scene and environment, to what extent have conciliation and mediation techniques, philosophy, structure and training programmes changed in many countries? What changes are required and what are the means to carry them out? What can be learned or adopted from another country's experience?

(b)  Arbitration

106. Arbitration is a procedure whereby a third party, not acting as a court of law, is empowered to take a decision which settles the dispute. It is "voluntary" when it can be set in motion only on the basis of agreement by the parties, and "compulsory" when either party or the government can set it in motion on its own initiative.

107. Compulsory arbitration of interest disputes is rare in the private sector of industrialized countries, one exception being Canada (at the federal level and in some provinces) where interest disputes involving an attempt to reach a first collective agreement must go to binding arbitration under certain circumstances, such as where the bargaining has been tainted with anti-union motives. Compulsory arbitration is more widely used in the public service of industrialized countries (for example in Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom) and sometimes in essential services. It is also widely used in both the public service and the private sector of many developing and newly industrializing countries. As examples, mention can be made of the procedures existing in a number of African and Asian countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore and the Philippines.

108. Compulsory arbitration of interest disputes has been instituted by a number of governments in developing countries, based on the theory that it will protect the national economy and public life from the disruptive effects of industrial action and facilitate the maintenance of public order (for example Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia). However, in many countries the attempt to suppress industrial action may in practice generate discontent, which may give rise to further disruptive action.

109. Compulsory arbitration is also sometimes found to be an attractive procedure in countries where the lack of balance between the power of employers and that of trade unions inhibits effective collective bargaining. However, as labour relations systems mature, compulsory arbitration often starts to be regarded as a hindrance to free collective bargaining, and is gradually taken over by conciliation as the main method of dispute settlement.

110. In order to encourage the parties to assume a growing role in dispute settlement, while maintaining the framework of labour relations free of industrial action, a number of developing countries have sought to promote voluntary arbitration of interest as well as rights disputes whereby the parties voluntarily refer their dispute to arbitrators of their choice, instead of having it referred by the government to compulsory arbitration. However, in spite of serious efforts made in many countries to promote it, voluntary arbitration is not yet widely practised in developing countries, partly because of the scarcity of arbitrators able to command the confidence of both parties, as well as cost factors. Another factor undermining the voluntary procedures is the wide availability of compulsory arbitration existing alongside voluntary arbitration in some developing countries.

111. Voluntary arbitration of interest disputes is also rare in industrialized countries. The main reason seems to be that conciliation (and, if necessary, recourse to industrial action) is more in line with the general labour relations philosophy of these countries. Many important lessons however can be learned from the experience of a number of countries like Canada and the United States in the use of voluntary arbitration to resolve labour disputes.

Disputes over rights

112. The basic principle underlying procedures for settling disputes over rights is that these disputes should, unless settled by negotiation, be resolved by courts or arbitrators and not by industrial action, because they involve the determination of existing rights, duties or obligations. In practice, however, the procedures for settling disputes over rights overlap with those for settling interest disputes in many systems of labour relations. The little relevance which the distinction between the two types of procedures has in the traditional labour relations system of the United Kingdom and some of the countries that have been influenced by it has been mentioned earlier.

113. Another factor blurring the distinction is the role of conciliation. It is used in a large, and probably growing, number of countries not only for the settlement of interest disputes but also for the settlement of rights disputes, at least as a first stage. There are even countries, e.g. Sweden, where disputes between the parties to a collective agreement can be referred to the Labour Court only after negotiations between them, and South Africa where conciliation is mandatory. In France, a partial panel of the labour court (conseil des prud'hommes) presides over compulsory conciliation procedures before the case is adjudicated. Independent conciliation services, as discussed above, may also be involved in attempting to settle rights disputes. Such widespread recourse to conciliation as a means of settling rights disputes seems to reflect the wide recognition among social partners of the fact that disputes over rights often arise out of misunderstandings or communication gaps between the parties, which can best be resolved by discussions between them rather than through litigation.

114. The bodies entrusted with the settlement of disputes over rights may be classified into a number of categories, including ordinary courts, specialized labour or industrial courts, quasi-judicial administrative agencies and arbitration.

(a)  Ordinary courts

115. The jurisdiction of the courts competent to deal with disputes over rights varies widely. In a number of countries, e.g. Italy and the Netherlands, all rights disputes, whether individual or collective, are dealt with by the ordinary courts. In the Netherlands serious backlogs in the courts have resulted in lengthy delays in deciding labour matters. However, in Italy labour disputes are dealt with through a more rapid procedure than normal cases and the judges assigned to deal with the disputes have special competence in labour matters. Some countries, such as Namibia, designate a chamber of the ordinary courts to deal with labour matters.

(b)  Labour or industrial courts

116. Labour courts are often distinguished from ordinary courts by expertise in labour matters, their tripartite composition, informal proceedings and relative autonomy. However, not all labour courts conform precisely to this model. The problem of excessive legalism and delays has been noted in a number of labour court systems. Labour courts appear to be the most common mechanism used for the settlement of disputes over rights, having a major role in Austria, Brazil, Finland, France and many African countries influenced by French law, Hungary, Spain, Turkey and Uruguay to name only a few examples. Where labour courts exist, the jurisdiction over labour matters is often divided between the labour court and the ordinary courts. While the labour courts in Germany have virtually exclusive jurisdiction over both individual and collective rights disputes, and the industrial courts of a number of Asian and African countries have an even wider jurisdiction encompassing both disputes over rights and those over interests, these cases nevertheless seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

117. The jurisdiction of the labour courts in Denmark and Sweden centres on collective rights disputes between the parties to a collective agreement. In Sweden, for example, a dispute between an employer and an employee who does not belong to a union goes first to the ordinary court with the possibility of an appeal to the Labour Court. In the United Kingdom, rights disputes arising under specific legislation, e.g. those involving equal pay, sex discrimination and unfair dismissal, are within the exclusive jurisdiction of industrial tribunals, whereas rights disputes otherwise arising under individual contracts of employment are handled by the ordinary courts.

118. In France, the labour courts (conseils des prud'hommes) are competent to deal only with individual disputes, which however include the interpretation and application of terms of collective agreements as they are frequently incorporated into individual contracts of employment. Alleged breaches of labour legislation, however, are dealt with in the ordinary courts. The labour tribunals in Sri Lanka are competent to deal only with disputes over termination of employment.

119. The labour or industrial courts in a significant number of countries (e.g. Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore and Sweden) are tripartite; the French conseils des prud'hommes are basically bipartite bodies. An advantage of such bipartite or tripartite tribunals lies in the expertise in industrial relations possessed by their employer and worker members. The procedures in such tribunals tend to be less legalistic than in ordinary courts, thus facilitating the expeditious and inexpensive solution of disputes, but they may sometimes encourage a political rather than judicial solution of disputes. In other countries, such as Argentina and Venezuela, there is a system of administrative judges, with no specific worker or employer representation.

120. In the tripartite bodies, the role of the workers' and employers' representatives may differ. In some countries they take on a role of representing their members' interests, whereas in most systems they are expected to act in an independent capacity (e.g. Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Whether or not the lay members are voting members or only act in an advisory capacity also varies from country to country.

(c)  Arbitration

121. The establishment of procedures for arbitration of disputes over rights (commonly called "grievance procedures") by collective agreements is widespread in Canada and the United States. In most collective agreements in the United States, the parties voluntarily include an arbitration requirement, whereas in Canada the inclusion of an arbitration provision in the collective agreement is required pursuant to most provincial labour legislation, and where not expressly included, such inclusion is assumed. Arbitrators are sometimes appointed on an ad hoc basis for each particular dispute, but they may also be named specifically in the collective agreement to deal with all disputes arising during the term of the agreement. In the United States, arbitration will normally be conducted by a single arbitrator, in contrast with the prevailing practice in Canada of submitting the cases to tripartite boards. The principal strengths of the grievance arbitration system lie in its largely voluntary nature and flexibility. One of its weaknesses, on the other hand, is that the procedures are available only in bargaining units where there is a certified bargaining agent.

122. The role of bodies dealing with rights disputes has been the focus of recent attention in many countries, particularly developing countries, in view of the changing nature of such disputes occasioned by pressures on the employment relationship, new forms of contractual relationships and a highly competitive economic environment. Termination cases are increasing in many countries, such as in Asia, particularly as a result of the recent severe financial turmoil. Excessive legalism, undue delays and unreasonable backlogs of cases continue to be problems. In many African, Asian and Central and Eastern European countries, for example, the common concerns include the inadequacy or lack of skilled conciliators and arbitrators and outdated or ineffective labour laws and procedures. The common demands from these countries are training opportunities and technical assistance to strengthen the entire dispute settlement machineries.

Recognition disputes

123. In most Western European countries, and in a number of developing countries, trade union recognition does not give rise to serious problems, primarily because employers voluntarily recognize the bargaining authority of unions, or recognition is mandated by law. In the United States and some other countries, unions' claims for recognition have met particularly strong resistance from employers, often resulting in bitter conflicts. For this reason, in the United States and certain other countries, legislation was adopted to place the whole question of trade union recognition under far more detailed regulation than in other countries.

124. The basic principles underlying the United States and Canadian systems of recognition are that the union selected by the majority of the workers in a given bargaining unit shall be the exclusive representative for all the workers in the unit and shall be so recognized by the employer. One of the main aims of this system is to settle recognition questions without industrial strife. This North American system of trade union recognition has influenced the systems of a number of developing countries faced with difficulties arising out of trade union multiplicity, particularly in Asia and the Caribbean subregion.

Unfair labour practices

125. A number of countries have established special procedures for settling unfair labour practices. The definitions of unfair labour practices vary significantly, but they are mostly related to the exercise of trade union rights. Most frequently, they are disputes arising from alleged acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of employment. In some countries they also cover discrimination on other grounds (e.g. South Africa) as well as an employer's refusal to negotiate with a union and certain actions by unions vis-à-vis employers. The union's failure to represent workers fairly is also defined as an unfair labour practice in some countries.

126. In the United States a special administrative agency is entrusted with the task of resolving such disputes. In other countries, such as Japan and Canada, these disputes are also dealt with by specialized quasi-judicial bodies.

Industrial action

127. The right to strike is one of the essential means available to workers and their organizations for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests. It is explicitly recognized in Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. At the regional level, the European Social Charter was the first text explicitly to recognize this right in the case of a conflict of interests, subject to any commitments under collective agreements in force. Within the ILO, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations and the Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association have recognized that the right to strike, though not explicitly mentioned in the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), arises out of the principle of freedom of association and constitutes an essential means available to workers and their organizations for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests.

128. Strikes often provide workers with a means of counterbalancing the power of the employer through economic leverage. On the other hand, depending on the extent of the industrial conflict, strikes or lockouts can be disruptive to economic life.

129. Laws on strikes and lockouts must be examined with respect to both the extent of the recognition of the rights and the regulation of the exercise of the rights. The extent of the recognition of the right to strike varies widely. At one end of the scale there are countries where the constitution, legislation, court decisions or agreements between the central organizations of employers and workers recognize the right to strike in principle, subject to restrictions that may be introduced with respect to certain categories of workers. Some of these countries (e.g. France, Italy and Portugal) do not provide a corresponding guarantee of the right to lock out on the grounds that workers are less powerful than employers and the right to strike is intended to redress the balance. Others (e.g. Canada, Mexico, Sweden and the United States) explicitly recognize both the right to strike and the right to lock out. In the United Kingdom, no positive right to strike has been enacted, but some limited statutory immunities remain in relation to strikes which would otherwise give rise to civil or criminal liability.

130. In some countries (e.g. the private sector in France, and Italy) the right to strike is conceived as a right of the individual workers, while in others (e.g. Germany and Sweden), it is a right of the trade union. A practical consequence of this difference is that, while in the former group of countries unofficial or "wildcat" strikes are lawful in principle, they are unlawful in the latter group of countries.

131. Most of the countries that in principle recognize the right of workers to strike exclude certain categories of workers (e.g. military personnel, high-level public servants) from the benefit of this right.

132. At the other end of the scale, there are countries where workers in general do not enjoy the right to strike or where that right may be severely limited. Although only in relatively few countries legislation explicitly prohibits strikes on a permanent basis, there are many countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where the prohibition of strikes results, for all practical purposes, from the cumulative effect of the provisions relating to the established dispute settlement machinery, which provides for compulsory reference of all unresolved disputes to binding arbitration or to resolution by the Minister of Labour. In many other countries, while it is not obligatory to refer all unresolved disputes to arbitration, the government is empowered to refer disputes to compulsory arbitration at its discretion, thus keeping the power to prohibit or put a rapid end to almost any strike. The ILO supervisory bodies have considered such powers to limit seriously the means at the disposal of trade unions to further and defend the interests of their members and the right to organize their activities and therefore not to be compatible with the principles of freedom of association.

133. Even in countries where the right to strike or lock out is recognized in principle, the ways in which these rights can be exercised are often regulated. Such regulations mainly concern the timing, the purposes and the methods of strikes and lockouts.

134. The regulation of the timing of strikes and lockouts is embodied, in many countries, in the obligation of the parties to a collective agreement not to strike or lock out during the life of the collective agreement. This obligation, commonly referred to as a "peace obligation", may be established by an explicit legislative provision, as in Sweden; by a general agreement between the central organizations of trade unions and employers, as in Denmark; by an explicit clause in the collective agreement between the parties, as in the United States; or as a function of the collective agreement, as determined by the courts, establishing peace between the parties (Austria, Germany and Switzerland).

135. The purposes of lawful strikes are also regulated in many countries. Often, a strike is lawful only if it is for purposes connected with labour relations, or "in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute" (as formulated in the British law), although how to define a "trade dispute" or "purposes connected with labour relations" is a complex issue. The lawfulness of purposes is often questioned with respect to political strikes and sympathy strikes. While in certain countries political strikes or sympathy strikes are generally permitted, they are prohibited or restricted in many others.

136. The purpose of a lockout also determines its lawfulness in some countries. For example, in France and Italy, an employer can initiate a lockout only as a defensive measure once an illegal strike is under way, whereas in Chile a lockout can be used in response to any strike affecting over 50 per cent of the workforce. In Spain lockouts are permitted in limited circumstances, including where it is necessary to protect persons or property from violence.

137. One of the commonly accepted principles concerning the methods of strikes and lockouts is that they should be peaceful. Another main principle is that a strike or lockout should be the last resort in labour disputes, so all efforts should first be made to settle disputes peacefully. This principle has been made binding by courts in some countries, like Germany and the Netherlands, where it is held that a strike is lawful only if all possibilities for negotiation have been exhausted. There are also many countries where prior notice of strikes and/or the taking of ballots among the union members is required by legislation. However, many others have no such prerequisite. The legal systems vary widely concerning such issues as go-slows, work-to-rule, rotating strikes, picketing, sympathy strikes and the occupation of an enterprise.

138. The regulation of strikes and lockouts in essential services has again become topical in some countries recently. Although restrictions on strikes and lockouts in essential services have existed for many years in many countries, there is now a trend in some other countries, where the right to strike and lock out was traditionally widely recognized, towards the introduction of certain restrictions on the exercise of these rights in essential services, for example in the form of an obligation to provide certain minimum services during a strike or prohibiting lockouts.

139. The ILO supervisory bodies have considered that the prohibition of strikes in essential services, where it exists, should be confined to services whose interruption would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population, and that appropriate guarantees must be afforded to protect workers who are thus denied one of the essential means of defending their interests, through the provision of adequate, impartial and speedy conciliation and finally -- and only where conciliation fails -- arbitration procedures in which the parties concerned can take part at every stage and in which the awards should in all cases be binding on both parties and rapidly and fully implemented. The ILO supervisory bodies have also taken positions on a number of the other issues discussed above, including political strikes, balloting and notice periods.

International labour standards

140. The existing international labour standards on dispute settlement are necessarily of a general nature, reflecting the wide variety of existing systems of dispute settlement. The Voluntary Conciliation and Arbitration Recommendation, 1951 (No. 92), recommends that voluntary conciliation machinery, free of charge and expeditious, be made available to assist in the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. It also recommends that provision should be made to enable the procedure to be set in motion, either on the initiative of any of the parties to the dispute or ex officio by the voluntary conciliation authority. Where a dispute has been submitted to conciliation or arbitration with the consent of all the parties concerned, they are encouraged to refrain from strikes or lockouts while conciliation or arbitration is in progress. The Recommendation also states that none of its provisions may be interpreted as limiting in any way whatsoever the right to strike.

141. Another indication as to how appropriate dispute settlement machinery should be conceived is given by the Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No. 154), which provides for measures aimed at ensuring that bodies and procedures for the settlement of labour disputes contribute to the promotion of collective bargaining. In the same vein, the Collective Bargaining Recommendation, 1981 (No. 163), advocates the establishment of procedures for the settlement of labour disputes which assist the parties in finding a solution to the dispute themselves.

142. The Examination of Grievances Recommendation, 1967 (No. 130), deals with a particular category of labour disputes, namely grievances of one or several workers against certain measures or situations concerning labour relations or employment conditions, where the worker or workers in good faith consider such measures or situations to be contrary to provisions of an applicable collective agreement or of an individual contract of employment, to works rules, to laws or regulations or to the custom or usage of the occupation, branch of economic activity or country. It recommends that a worker or workers should have the right to submit such grievance or grievances without suffering any prejudice as a result, and to have them examined pursuant to an appropriate procedure for settlement within the undertaking. Where the grievance is not resolved within the undertaking, the Recommendation goes on to state that there should then be a possibility for final settlement through agreed procedures, conciliation, arbitration or judicial decision, etc. The Recommendation makes a distinction between such grievances and collective claims aimed at the modification of terms and conditions of employment, which are excluded from its scope of application.

143. With respect to labour disputes occurring in the public service, the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention, 1978 (No. 151), provides that the settlement of disputes regarding terms and conditions of employment is to be sought through negotiation between the parties or through independent and impartial machinery, such as mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The Convention goes on to stress that such machinery should be established in such a manner as to ensure the confidence of the parties involved. During the debate leading to the adoption of the instrument, an understanding was reached that this Convention did not deal in one way or the other with the question of the right to strike.

144. Other relevant international labour standards include the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), the Collective Agreements Recommendation, 1951 (No. 91), and the Labour Relations (Public Service) Recommendation, 1978 (No. 159). Apart from these and the other international labour Conventions and Recommendations mentioned above, the Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association and the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations have formulated a number of pertinent principles. The Committee of Experts undertook a general survey (its sixth) on the application of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, which the Conference examined at its 81st Session in 1994. The Office relies on the principles of freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining in advising member States on the drafting of labour laws.

Prospects for general discussion on disputes settlement

145. There appears to be a broad consensus among constituents on the importance of the prevention and settlement of labour disputes in the field of industrial relations. The above information attempts to show the existing situation in many countries on the subject, including the latest trends and problems faced, particularly in developing countries. The need for reforms in labour law and procedures, training, information-sharing, including studies and further research into effective and innovative practices, has been indicated. It might be preferable to re-examine the question as a whole in a general discussion, in order to guide the Office in relation to future initiatives in the field of the prevention and settlement of labour disputes. The points for discussion could include improved techniques and approaches in conciliation, mediation, arbitration and labour adjudication, including constraints and problems encountered; law and procedure, as well as policies on dispute prevention and settlement; and the role of international labour standards in promoting the effective prevention and settlement of labour disputes.

* * *

5.  Prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace


Recent years have seen a significant development in the perception of sexual harassment in employment and occupation as a problem affecting large numbers of people -- mostly women, but sometimes also men -- in all regions of the world. While the phenomenon is as yet covered by almost no international standards, a growing number of countries have taken legislative action to recognize it as abusive behaviour and to punish and prevent it. While the number of countries that have adopted such legislation is not yet very large, the trend is increasing; and both in countries that have adopted legislation and in many of those that have not yet done so, there is an increasing network of codes of conduct, enterprise regulations, and other forms of regulation.

Variations persist in the definitions given to sexual harassment, the perception of precisely what conduct is unacceptable, and the remedies contemplated. There is nevertheless broad agreement on the nature and extent of the problem and on the fact that sexual harassment is an aggravated form of discrimination on the basis of sex. The various approaches taken reflect, for the most part, narrow distinctions in the way the line is drawn between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Should the Governing Body decide that the subject should be included on the agenda of the Conference for the adoption of a Convention and/or a Recommendation, these could lay down general principles on the prevention of sexual harassment in employment and occupation, to be adapted to national situations through legislation and/or other measures.


146. There is no single generally accepted definition of sexual harassment. In its 1988 General Survey on the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations listed examples of behaviour that may constitute sexual harassment. It took up these points again and amplified them in its 1996 Special Survey on the same subject. These include insults, remarks, jokes, insinuations and inappropriate comments on a person's dress, physique, age, family situation; a condescending or paternalistic attitude with sexual implications undermining dignity; unwelcome invitations or requests that are implicit or explicit whether or not accompanied by threats; lascivious looks or other gestures associated with sexuality; and unnecessary physical contact such as touching, caresses, pinching or assault. The Committee of Experts stressed that in order to be qualified as sexual harassment, an act of this type must also be justly perceived as a condition of employment or a precondition for employment; or influence decisions taken in this field or prejudice occupational performance; or humiliate, insult or intimidate the person suffering from such acts. Sexual harassment may also arise from situations which are generally hostile to one sex or the other.9

147. In its General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women qualified sexual harassment as a form of discrimination on the basis of sex, and as a form of violence against women. It stated that --

148. Thus, while sexual harassment is not referred to specifically in any binding international Convention, the relevant supervisory bodies of the ILO and the United Nations have found that it is covered as a form of sex-based discrimination. The only international Convention so far adopted which prohibits this practice directly is the ILO's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), at Article 20.

149. The definition most commonly cited is contained in the European Commission's Recommendation (1991) on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work and its accompanying Code of Practice. The three key elements of that definition are the following:

  1. conduct of a sexual nature and other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men, including conduct of superiors and colleagues, which is unwelcome, unreasonable, and offensive to the recipient;
  2. a person's rejection of, or submission to, such conduct "is used explicitly or implicitly as a basis for a decision which affects that person's access to vocational training, access to employment, continued employment, promotion, salary or any other employment decisions"; and/or
  3. such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment for the recipient.

150. The accompanying Code of Practice further states that:

151. The reliance on criteria such as the "welcomeness" or "offensiveness" of certain kinds of behaviour to particular individuals which figure prominently in the text of the European Commission's Code of Practice, means that it is not possible to compile an exhaustive list of harassing conduct that should be prohibited, and that a more descriptive approach might be called for in any international standards adopted in this regard. This would imply laying down broad principles which could be applied in ways closely adapted to national situations.

152. The two principal types of sexual harassment in the workplace included in these definitions are "quid pro quo" harassment and the creation of a hostile working environment, both of which need to be included in any definition to provide adequate coverage.

(a)  Quid pro quo harassment

153. Sexual harassment can be expressly tied to conditions of work, as in what is sometimes termed "sexual blackmail" or "quid pro quo" (something for something) harassment, because it forces an employee to choose between acceding to sexual demands or losing job benefits. Because "quid pro quo" harassment can only be committed by someone with the power to give or take away an employment benefit, this form of sexual harassment consists of an abuse of authority by the employer (or by the employer's agent to whom authority over terms and conditions is delegated). Such sexual blackmail is widely regarded as particularly reprehensible, since it represents a breach of trust and an abuse of power. In the United States, "quid pro quo" harassment was the first form of unlawful sexual harassment identified by the courts, and French legislation on sexual harassment focuses on this manifestation.

154. There are, however, two fundamental problems with restricting a prohibition on sexual harassment to sexual blackmail by the employer or his agent. The first is that even if the concept of "the employer" for this purpose is widely defined so as to include managers and supervisors, it excludes conduct between colleagues. Yet harassment by a colleague can have physical, emotional and psychological consequences that are as damaging as those of harassment by a superior, through the creation of a hostile working atmosphere. Secondly, where the law limits its definition of sexual harassment to sexual blackmail, the effect is that it is not the harassment per se that is regarded as unlawful, but rather the retaliatory act which is prohibited. That is to say, the complainant's cause of action will be that she (or he) lost a promotion or a pay rise, or was dismissed, because of her (or his) reaction to the harassment. This leaves the person against whom no retaliation has been taken with no recourse against the harassment, no matter how offensive the conduct may have been. Such a situation effectively permits a worker to be sexually harassed with impunity, provided that no tangible action was taken against him or her in response to resistance.11

155. It should be noted that cases of "quid pro quo" sexual harassment have been successfully prosecuted in a number of countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. These cases have been brought principally on the grounds of unfair dismissal, where the complainant argued that refusal of unwanted sexual advances by a supervisor was not a valid reason for dismissal.

(b)  Hostile working environment

156. Sexual harassment can pollute the atmosphere in a workplace, creating a hostile, abusive or offensive working environment for its victims. Recognizing this, a number of countries provide a right of action against sexual harassment which results in an offensive working environment for those affected by it. For example, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on sexual harassment refer to harassment which "has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment". As seen above, the European Commission Recommendation similarly refers to conduct which "creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment for the recipient", and this is also covered in the General Recommendation of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, as well as in various comments by the ILO Committee of Experts.


157. There is a growing body of empirical research documenting the incidence of sexual harassment at work. The Office is aware of surveys carried out in recent years in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. These surveys cover a range of industrialized countries. Other information indicates that even where empirical research has not been carried out, there is evidence that it is perceived as a problem of real magnitude. Sexual harassment is, for example, a recurring issue raised by participants in ILO seminars on equality. A considerable number of countries also identify the problem as a major impediment to the enjoyment of equality in their reports on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and have adopted measures in this connection in their national action plans to implement the Platform of Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). This and other information indicates that the problem exists in all parts of the world.

158. The research findings vary according to the groups sampled, their size, level of awareness of the problem, and especially the precise questions asked. For example, a question asking whether someone has experienced particular forms of unwelcome behaviour is more likely to elicit a positive answer than a question as to whether the person has been "sexually harassed", since those questioned may differ in their understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. For this reason, in countries where there have been a number of surveys on the incidence of sexual harassment, results have differed greatly within the country. In addition, research findings do not provide any empirical basis for comparisons as to the extent of the problem in different countries.12

159. There are no typical "recipients" of sexual harassment, but the likelihood of being sexually harassed is most closely associated with the perceived vulnerability and financial dependency of the recipient, rather than the physical appearance of the person harassed. National research establishes beyond doubt that women are far more likely than men to suffer sexual harassment at work. Nevertheless, many of the surveys available show that men can also experience sexual harassment, although the scale of the problem for men is substantially less. It is thus appropriate that policies and guidelines confer the same rights on men who have been sexually harassed as they do on women.13

Treatment at the national level

160. The prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace has received growing attention worldwide over the past two decades. The number of countries that penalize, or even criminalize, this behaviour is increasing. A 1992 survey of 23 industrialized countries carried out by the ILO14 revealed that seven countries had statutes that specifically defined or mentioned the term "sexual harassment". Since 1993, specific legislation declaring sexual harassment to be a prohibited behaviour or general legislation covering sexual discrimination under which protection from sexual harassment can be provided has been adopted, so far as the Office is aware, in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa and Switzerland.15 Some regulation and remedies are almost certainly contained in texts below the legislative level, which would be revealed with further research.

161. Virtually all industrialized countries now provide some form of legal recourse against some types of sexual harassment at work. The extent to which remedies are used, however, is in large part likely to be a function of the sphere of the legal system in which they are situated. In particular, a distinction must be drawn between countries where there is a specific legislative and/or judicial recognition of the problem of sexual harassment, and countries that have yet to reach this level of awareness. In the latter case, while it may be affirmed that legal remedies exist against sexual harassment, in fact, relief may be sought only for those actions which fall within existing proscribed behaviour. For example, sexual harassment which involves certain forms of unwanted physical contact, such as rape, molestation or indecent assault, may infringe criminal law. Similarly, sexual harassment may be regarded as producing a breach of an employer's duty to provide a safe and healthy working environment, as a breach of contractual obligations, or as a breach of general constitutional protections, such as equal treatment or respect of individual integrity. In such instances, sexual harassment is assimilated to activities prohibited under statutes covering other subjects than sexual harassment, for example, equal opportunity law, labour law, tort law and criminal law. Human rights legislation and occupational safety and health regulations have also been cited as possible channels of legal recourse.16

162. Such remedies may, however, remain largely theoretical for four principal reasons: (a) the laws under which recourse is sought were not adopted with sexual harassment in mind; (b) enforcement is frequently dependent on outside agencies; (c) difficulties of proof may arise in legal proceedings; and (d) sanctions may be inadequate or inappropriate to the specific nature of the offence.17

163. It is the courts' interpretation of legal statutes that can lend force to the prohibition of sexual harassment in employment. Because legislation on sexual harassment has been adopted only recently, there is as yet little in this domain. To date, research has uncovered decisions in very few cases, and the results have been mixed, making it difficult to discern clear trends. However, 1993 was a year of significant decisions in the United States, several European countries and Japan. In the United States, sexual harassment was once again confirmed as sexual discrimination in employment. In France, it continues to be treated as an abuse of authority or power. In Spain, it is perceived more as a violation of the right to health and safety at work. In Japan, "quid pro quo" harassment of young female workers by male supervisors has been judged harshly.18

164. Situating a legal remedy.As noted above, there is a range of potential remedies for sexual harassment under civil and criminal law. Whatever their potential value in specific factual circumstances, most have serious defects as a primary legal remedy for sexual harassment at work. Penal sanctions have a number of disadvantages. The remedy is usually dependent on enforcement by a government official, such as a labour inspector or prosecutor; a stricter standard of proof and stricter rules of evidence than in civil proceedings may apply; employers are unlikely to be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees; and the sanction will normally consist of a fine against the perpetrator rather than damages for the victim.

165. In most industrialized countries, sexual harassment may also constitute grounds for the employee to terminate the employment contract and claim damages from the employer. The deficiency in this as a primary remedy is that it forces the victims of sexual harassment to give up their job in order to secure justice.

Action by the social partners

166. Commentators have pointed out that the main aim of most victims of sexual harassment is not to sue their employer for damages, but to ensure that the offensive behaviour should stop, that it should not recur and that they should be protected against retaliation for having brought a complaint.19 One way organizations have chosen to deal with sexual harassment is to develop and implement a preventive policy at enterprise level.

167. Recognition of the negative impact of sexual harassment on recipients and on the working environment is growing rapidly, and action is often taken by the social partners before, or in addition to, the adoption of legislation. Training programmes on sexual harassment have been organized by government agencies, employers' organizations, non-governmental organizations and independent consultancy firms. Collective bargaining has been used as a means of tackling sexual harassment in some countries.20 Many employers now view sexual harassment as a genuine concern of management, and a large number of individual employers in the public and private sectors have developed guidelines and codes of practice on sexual harassment. Several employers' organizations have advised their affiliates of current laws and have recommended that employers formulate policy statements, train managerial and supervisory staff, establish complaints procedures and provide information to all employees.21

168. Trade unions in a number of countries have published brochures explaining what sexual harassment is and what can be done about it.22 Some unions have launched awareness-raising campaigns, urging members to denounce acts of harassment to the works council or trade union representatives.23

169. The extent to which voluntary initiatives concerning sexual harassment have been taken by the social partners varies greatly both within and between countries. Two remarkable trends, however, can be discerned. First, where initiatives have been taken, a large area of consensus usually develops between management and trade unions. Dealing with sexual harassment becomes an issue for industrial relations cooperation rather than conflict. Secondly, a high degree of consensus has also emerged as to the general shape of sexual harassment policies and procedures which it is appropriate to adopt at enterprise level. ILO research, validated by the examples outlined above, indicates that these should include four main components: a policy statement, a complaints procedure, disciplinary rules, and a training and communication strategy.24 It is evident that protection against retaliation must also be a key element of any complaint procedure.

ILO work on this issue

170. Already in 1985, the International Labour Conference recognized that sexual harassment at the workplace is detrimental to employees' working conditions and to their employment and promotion prospects, and called for policies for the advancement of equality to include measures to combat and prevent sexual harassment. The resolution concerning ILO action for women workers adopted by the Conference in 1991 requested the International Labour Office to arrange for the convening of tripartite meetings with a view to developing guidelines, training and information materials on issues that are of specific and major importance to women, such as sexual harassment at the workplace. In 1989 the ILO Meeting of Experts on Special Protective Measures for Women and Equality of Opportunity and Treatment categorized the threats to the personal security of workers, notably sexual harassment and violence arising from work, as a safety and health problem. The conclusions of the 1992 Tripartite Symposium on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Men and Women in Employment in Industrialized Countries, referred specifically to sexual harassment as a problem in this field.25

171. Much of the ILO's attention to the issue has been focused through the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which has sought to highlight the action taken by member States to eradicate sexual harassment in the context of measures to implement Convention No. 111, though the Convention does not deal explicitly with sexual harassment. Reference should be made in this regard to the Committee's 1996 Special Survey on equality in employment and occupation where it was stated that "the elimination of sexual abuse in work relations should be an integral part of a legislative or other policy, independently of policies on discrimination on the basis of sex".26 This is a situation in which a problem arising frequently in the supervision of a Convention has caused the realization that it would be appropriate to adopt specific standards on that subject.

Proposed new standards

172. The recent development of action in this area in many countries around the world, and the different efforts taken at various levels to deal with the question, lead to the conclusion that the ILO can provide assistance to its constituents on the ways in which the problem might be tackled. As indicated above, there have been a number of attempts at defining sexual harassment, which have led to diverse, but compatible, solutions both in legislation and in the development of enterprise-level and other initiatives. One conceivable way of tackling the issue is to adopt standards that would serve to raise awareness of the issue, while providing guidance on the way in which it might be confronted.

173. A Convention could lay down general principles, developed on the model of the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111). It might first contain a definition of sexual harassment, reproducing the main elements outlined above. It could then require ratifying countries to adopt and pursue a national policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, the identification and elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Convention might require ratifying countries to undertake to seek the cooperation of employers' and workers' organizations and other appropriate bodies in promoting this objective. It could call for the enactment of such legislation and the promotion of such educational programmes as may be calculated to secure the acceptance and observance of the policy, and for the repeal or modification of any statutory provisions and administrative instructions which are inconsistent with that policy. Ratifying countries might be required to adopt measures in a very brief period for the elimination of sexual harassment and the provision of adequate remedies in employment under the direct control of a national authority; and to encourage the early adoption of such measures through collective bargaining and similar measures at the enterprise level. The Convention might require that such measures be taken on a priority basis in industries in which there is a high concentration of women workers.

174. A Recommendation complementing the Convention might include more detailed indications on the contents of enterprise-level programmes for the elimination of sexual harassment, on the provisions of collective agreements in this regard, and on possible remedies. These indications would be drawn up on the basis of the more detailed information collected in the process of consulting employers' and workers' organizations. The national action plans drawn up following the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) will provide an important source of information on the measures taken in different countries around the world.

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6.  Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases
(including the revision of the list of occupational diseases, Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121))


A major obstacle to preventing loss of life and injury and to achieving effective control measures is the absence of reliable information concerning the occurrence of accidents and diseases and their causes. This obstacle exists in a large number of countries and consequently at the international level. Consistent and comparable data facilitates the conduct by employers and governments of comparative analyses at the enterprise and national levels to identify preventive measures and set priorities for their implementation and for the economical and rational use of resources.

International practice concerning the recording and notification of employment injuries is far from uniform. Different definitions, differences in collection and notification procedures for occupational accidents and diseases, as well as the lack of national expertise lead to disparate situations in member States. New international standards could contribute better than the existing instruments and documents to improving and harmonizing both the terminology and the procedures involved, providing the basis for preventive action and for coherent national, sectoral and enterprise-level policies. A Convention containing basic principles, supplemented by a Recommendation, might be envisaged.

The international instrument(s) could provide for the obligation for the competent authorities of member States to establish and implement a coherent national policy, as well as systems and programmes and the relevant concepts and terminology for the recording, notification and investigation of occupational accidents and diseases, which would be consistent with international agreements and Recommendations. It would be appropriate to update the current ILO list of occupational diseases simultaneously with the elaboration of the international instrument(s). The new list could have two purposes: it could become the revised Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121), i.e. it could be a list for compensation purposes, and it could also be a list of occupational diseases for the new instrument(s), i.e. for the purpose of recording and notification.


175. Despite significant advances in dealing with many of the challenges to the safety, health and well-being of workers, it was estimated during the last decade that some 220,000 work-related deaths still occur each year and, in addition, each year approximately 125 million workers worldwide are injured or fall ill due to work-related accidents and diseases. Recent ongoing research carried out in the Office together with the World Health Organization shows that fatal occupational accident figures are higher than previously estimated and would be at least 335,000 each year (based on available information for 1994).

176. A major obstacle to preventing loss of life and injury on this scale and to achieving effective control measures is the absence of reliable information concerning the incidence of accidents and diseases. Only about one-third of the 120 member States that have ratified the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), include statistics of occupational accidents and diseases in their annual reports, as requested in Articles 20 and 21.

177. Employers need to record information about accidents and diseases that arise in their enterprise and to investigate them. The record should include at least the essential facts required for notification, which makes it easier for the employer to analyse the recorded data so as to identify both the causes of accidents and diseases and the resulting losses, and to devise programmes and measures for their prevention and control. In addition, when this information is made available to workers' representatives it enables them to contribute to the improvement of working conditions.

178. The information about occupational accidents and diseases recorded and kept at the enterprise forms the basis, and determines the quality, of its notification to the appropriate authorities, which are mainly the social security institutions or the authorities responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health legislation. The social security institutions require information in order to compensate injured persons and their dependants. The enforcement authorities need information to investigate individual cases and identify recurring accidents and diseases and, through the use of accumulated statistics, devise coherent national, sectoral and enterprise-level enforcement strategies and guidance for effective prevention programmes.

179. Despite the existence of resolutions concerning statistics of employment injuries, adopted by the Tenth and Thirteenth International Conferences of Labour Statisticians in 1962 and 1982 (see paragraph 203), which recommend standard terminology, definitions and concepts and provide guiding rules for the classification and presentation of statistics, international practice is far from being uniform. Existing national definitions of occupational injuries frequently differ from the international standard definitions recommended by these resolutions. On account of differences in the scope of legislation on social security benefits and on occupational safety and health protection, due to a lack of national expertise or the fact that some countries have not yet introduced appropriate arrangements for data collection, there are national variations in the collection and notification procedures and in the coverage and sources. Inconsistent and non-comparable data prevents employers and governments from realizing comparative analyses at enterprise and national levels for the identification of preventive measures and setting priorities in their implementation and the economical and meaningful use of resources. Under-reporting is common, and the number of cases of occupational accidents and diseases that go unreported is difficult to quantify. In the study "Accidents at work in the European Union in 1993", published by EUROSTAT in 1997, four European Union Member States estimated the mean notification rate between 30 (the Netherlands) and 58 per cent (Denmark).

180. In the past there have been several attempts at improving the situation: participants in the Latin American Regional Tripartite Seminar on the Organization of Occupational Health Services and the Recording and Analysis of Occupational Accidents and Diseases (Mexico, 23-27 October 1989) emphasized the need to harmonize recording and notification systems. In the European Union methodologies have been developed to provide for harmonized statistics on occupational accidents and for comparable statistics on occupational diseases. The 24th General Assembly of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) adopted a report in 1992 which calls for a harmonized international system for the notification and compilation of accident statistics.

Review of national practice

181. Measures at the level of the enterprise for the recording of accidents differ greatly. While large enterprises tend to make detailed records of accidents and their causes, smaller enterprises are less likely to do so. Some enterprises have introduced their own reporting systems, sometimes to compare figures in different factories within the same company, particularly in multinational enterprises. Different recording systems might be in use in specific sectors of the economy of one country. Many countries lack any legislative provision for recording.

182. In general, only compensated accidents or those meeting certain criteria are covered by the national notification schemes, while many minor accidents, knowledge of which would be even more important for the development of preventive policy, are not considered. As a result, the relative incidence of notified accidents could differ widely between countries and often between different sectors of the economy of one country. Considerable discrepancies also occur in the notification of accidents in specific sectors of the economy. In particular, agricultural, construction, marine and mineworkers are subject to diverging notification criteria. Coverage may be limited to certain types of workers, or certain types of economic activity and enterprises employing more than a certain number of workers, and it is often low in the tertiary sector. Self-employed, part-time and casual workers or trainees/apprentices may be omitted by not having recourse to public insurance schemes. To a large extent, data on accidents resulting in fatal injuries are more reliable than those on non-fatal accidents, as fatal cases are almost invariably notified. Even then, differences may occur in interpreting the term "fatal" for notification purposes (e.g. accidents resulting in immediate death or with injury resulting in death which occurred within 30 days, between 31 and 365 days of the accident or without limit of time).

183. An important problem in comparing occupational accident figures is the difference in the main categories of notifiable accidents in each country, which may range from accidents causing incapacity for work for a specified number of days to any accident irrespective of interruption of work. Most of the countries require information on the time, day and place, the type and primary cause of the accident as well as the nature of the injury and the part of body injured. Some call for information about what the injured person was doing at the time of the accident. Only a few require information about the occupation, qualification and training of the injured or the length of time they have been employed in that capacity or about required safety devices or personal protective equipment. The criteria for notification are different for accidents that occur on the way to and from work (commuting accidents) or traffic accidents which occur while at work.

184. The recording and notification of occupational diseases is even more complicated. Most countries have a legal definition of occupational diseases in the form of a prescribed list of occupational diseases. In many cases the prescribed list is linked with compensation criteria. There are, however, differences between the chosen methods of definition. Some countries have a list of prescribed diseases which may be similar to, but not necessarily the same as, Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121), as amended in 1980. Other member States operate a so-called mixed system (prescribed diseases and other diseases). As a result, national statistics on occupational diseases differ with respect to the diseases covered, their definitions, the criteria for the recognition of such diseases and the coverage of working populations. A particular difficulty arises for diseases due to multiple causes and those with long latency periods.

185. Procedures for notifying occupational diseases differ considerably from those for occupational accidents, as regards both the persons responsible for making the reports and those receiving them. Either the employer or the physician is responsible for notification to the labour inspectorate or its equivalent, or the report is to be received first by the insurance body. In some countries a number of optional information channels exist. While such reports invariably go to the insurance organization responsible for paying compensation, the enforcement agency may not be notified of cases of occupational disease. There is little doubt from research conducted in many countries that there is vast under-reporting. A fairly large number of developing countries are not in a position to collect and publish national data on occupational diseases because diseases resulting from occupational exposure may often be diagnosed as non-occupational diseases due to a lack of national expertise (lack of national lists or international references) or facilities for differential diagnosis, or both.

Role of new international instruments

186. Uniform national systems of reporting, recording, notifying and evaluating occupational accidents and diseases are essential for the collection of consistent data and their subsequent use for the identification and implementation of preventive measures. International labour standards deal only to a very limited extent with effective recording and notification as a tool for preventive action, and they neither specify uniform methods or appropriate national procedures or systems, nor include sufficient guidance (see paragraph 202). New international standards on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases could establish more compelling obligations for governments and therefore be more effective than the existing imperatives, which are in particular the resolutions adopted by the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (see paragraph 214), and the general provisions of some Conventions and Recommendations (see paragraphs 201 and 202). Notwithstanding the existence of the Code of practice on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases28 (see paragraph 216), it is obvious that international standards could contribute better to improving and harmonizing both the terminology and the procedures, providing the basis for coherent national, sectoral and enterprise-level policies and action for prevention. While more detailed than the proposed instrument(s), the Code could be used, however, as a point of departure for their preparation.

187. The international instrument(s) could provide for:

A Convention containing basic principles, supplemented by a Recommendation, could be envisaged.

188. It might be appropriate to update the current ILO list of occupational diseases simultaneously with the elaboration of the international instrument(s). The new list, which could be in two parts, could have two purposes:

189. The proposed revision of the current ILO list of occupational diseases, which dates from 1980, and the envisaged revision of current ILO classifications of accidents, which dates from 1962, might prove essential to the implementation of the proposed new international instrument(s).

Content of the new instrument(s)

190. The instrument(s) could aim at reinforcing and incorporating various activities into consistent systems of collecting information on occupational accidents and diseases in member States. Such systems could cover methods of reporting and recording within an enterprise and notification to the national authority. Consistent recording and notification systems could facilitate the investigation and analysis of the causes of occupational accidents and diseases that could promote the implementation, review and continuous improvement of safety and health policies within the enterprise and at national level, in particular for the purposes of planning coherent and effective prevention programmes.

191. The following aspects of the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases might be covered.

(a)  General provisions

192. The provisions could specify that the competent authority should formulate, implement and periodically review a coherent national policy and principles on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases, and establish and progressively implement national procedures and the necessary legal, institutional and administrative arrangements. Provisions for notification at the national level could cover fatal occupational accidents, all occupational accidents causing incapacity for work for a period to be established by the competent authority, and all occupational diseases included in a national list or covered by the definition of such diseases prescribed by the competent authority and diagnosed in a specified period. Provisions for recording at the level of the enterprise could be extended to include also accidents, diseases and happenings not covered by the notification requirements (commuting accidents, work-related diseases, dangerous occurrence and incidents).

(b)  Action at the level of the enterprise

193. These measures could relate to setting up adequate procedures and allocating responsibilities within the enterprise for reporting by the worker and recording by the employer of occupational accidents and diseases. The provisions could specify the content and format of records, the period of time in which employers should have the records available, the confidentiality of medical and personal data, the cooperation of workers and their training in adequate reporting and recording. The information to be recorded should include at least the information that needs to be notified to the relevant enforcement body, the appropriate compensation organization or other designated bodies. Specifications could be made for additional or for progressively more detailed information to be recorded.

194. Accurate information concerning common causes of occupational accidents and diseases and the extent of injury will help in setting priorities for necessary preventive measures. It will also facilitate the assessment of the effectiveness of legislative and other measures. Provisions could thus specify measures to promote the uniform identification and assessment of causes of occupational accidents and diseases at each enterprise and, subsequently, in all branches of economic activity and at the national level by the use of the information recorded.

(c)  Notification at the national level

195. These could specify how member States should prescribe and implement uniform procedures for notifying occupational accidents and diseases, including the determination of the bodies to which notification should be made, and could specify the responsibilities of employers and workers for compliance with the prescribed procedures. The instruments could also deal with enforcement measures.

196. The provisions could specify the types and extent of information to be notified to the relevant enforcement body, the appropriate compensation organization or other designated bodies, the timing for the notification depending on the type of injury and the notification arrangements to be set up within the enterprise. The notification of occupational accidents could include information on the enterprise where the accident occurred and its employer, the injured person, the extent, nature and location of the resulting injuries, the accident and its sequence, the investigation and action taken to prevent a recurrence of the accident. The notification of occupational diseases could include information on the enterprise and employer, the person affected, the occupational disease and its attribution to harmful agents and process and length of exposure. Specifications could be made for progressively more detailed information to be notified.

197. The instrument(s) could also suggest the means of promoting the use of the notified information at the national level, including the creation of national databases and the production of reliable statistics on occupational accidents and diseases as a basis for setting priorities and elaborating national policy and preventive action programmes. The instrument(s) could take into account the role of social security and sectoral institutions according to national law or practice.

Revision of the list of occupational diseases

198. On the basis of a review of the diseases that might appropriately be included in a revised Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121), and of current practice and trends in the diagnosis and evaluation of occupational disease for compensation purposes, the proposed new list of occupational diseases could cover the following additional items:

199. The revised list will be conducive to an improved flow of information on the incidence of work-related diseases with a view to their prevention. It will offer useful guidance on the health surveillance of workers exposed to specific occupational hazards and will have the advantage of promoting close cooperation between insurance organizations and enforcement agencies.

Origin of the proposal

200. Conference agenda items on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases were proposed for consideration by the Governing Body for the Conference agenda in 1991,1996, 1997 and 1999.29 An item on the revision of the list of occupational diseases appended to Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121), was proposed for the 1994 Conference agenda.30

Relation to existing instruments

201. Some 20 Conventions and Recommendations encourage the compilation of statistics of occupational injuries and diseases, but only some of them refer to recording and notification. The Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), requires that the annual report published by the central inspection authority shall deal with statistics of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. According to the Protection of Workers' Health Recommendation, 1953 (No. 97), national laws or regulations should require the notification of cases and suspected cases of occupational diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), provides for the competent authority to ensure that procedures will be progressively established and applied for the notification of occupational accidents and diseases for the production of annual statistics. Under the terms of the Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation, 1981 (No. 164), employers should be required to keep records relevant to occupational safety and health and the working environment which might include records of all notifiable occupational accidents and injuries to health. The Labour Statistics Convention, 1985 (No. 160), and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 170) require the compilation of statistics of occupational injuries and, as far as possible, occupational diseases. There is, however, neither guidance regarding their structure nor reference to the resolution concerning statistics of employment injuries, which provides such guidance.

202. The Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121), requires that legislation shall prescribe both the definition of an industrial accident and a list of diseases to be regarded as occupational diseases under prescribed conditions. National legislation should include a general definition of occupational diseases broad enough to cover at least the diseases listed in the most recent version of Schedule I to the Convention. The current version was amended in 1980 and needs to be reviewed. An informal consultation on the revision of Schedule I, convened by the ILO in 1991, prepared an updated list which has not been approved officially. The resolution concerning statistics of employment injuries, adopted by the Tenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians (1962), defined for statistical purposes the notions of fatalities, permanent disablement and temporary disablement, and suggested four classifications of accidents according to the type of accidents, the physical agency, the nature and the bodily location of the injury. These classifications require updating to meet modern and future needs, as well as expansion, to cover growing demands for more analytical information about the causes of injuries and diseases. In view of these developments, a Meeting of Experts on Labour Statistics will be held in Geneva from 30 March to 3 April 1998 with the objective of discussing the major issues involved in the measurement and classification of occupational injuries. Its conclusions will be taken into account when the Bureau of Statistics prepares a draft resolution on statistics of occupational injuries for consideration by the Sixteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians, to be held in Geneva in October 1998. It is expected that the Meeting will conclude, among others, with revised classifications of occupational accidents according to the type and mode of injury, the part of body injured, the type of disability, the work environment and the activity of the injured person, as well as of commuting accidents.

203. Although the Code of practice on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases is not a legally binding document, it provides useful guidance to competent authorities in developing national systems for the collection of comparable information and the overall prevention of occupational injuries and diseases. During its adoption by a Meeting of Experts in October 1994, the experts stressed that the collection, recording and notification of data concerning occupational accidents and diseases were instrumental for the identification and study of the causes of accidents and diseases. In addition, the experts acknowledged both the value of and the need for guidance by lists of occupational diseases, particularly in countries where such lists did not exist, and the difficulties inherent in the recognition of occupational diseases. They expressed concern regarding the current ILO list of occupational diseases given in Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1963 (No. 121), last amended in 1980, and recommended that this list be updated.

Progress made in research and preparatory work

204. The above code of practice was distributed by the Office to all member States in a special endeavour implemented in 1997 to review the establishment of national policies and programmes and to develop more comprehensive and internationally comparable statistics on occupational accidents, in particular fatalities. All member States were asked to provide available data or to explore the difficulties or special circumstances they may be facing in gathering national data. The replies received from 95 institutions of some 84 countries are being evaluated.

205. Based on the experience acquired from previous work regarding the ILO list of occupational diseases, the ongoing practical implementation of the Code of practice on the recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases, and research already undertaken, the Office is prepared to provide the necessary preparatory work for a Conference agenda item.

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7.  Safety and health in agriculture


It is submitted that there is a need to adopt protective legislation for agricultural workers. Agriculture is one of the most hazardous sectors worldwide, alongside mining and construction. It is also a very complex and heterogeneous sector, involving a number of specific methods which vary from country to country and between developed and developing countries, from highly mechanized agriculture in plantations to traditional methods in small-scale subsistence agriculture. Agriculture tends, however, to be omitted from the occupational safety and health regulations of many countries, apart from a few countries which have a set of special provisions on occupational safety and health relating to agriculture. Most of these regulations concern safety of machinery and equipment and pesticides. Comprehensive legislation on occupational safety and health addressing the sector is almost inexistent, however. Moreover, an important number of agricultural workers are excluded from social security benefits. Standards containing basic principles of safety and health in agriculture would provide a framework on which national legislation could be based.

In contrast with the situation in mining and construction, there is no Convention dealing comprehensively with the safety and health problems of agricultural workers. Safety and health issues in agriculture are partially covered in a multitude of existing standards including, in particular,the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), which covers all sectors of the economy.


206. Agriculture is a very complex and heterogeneous sector. It involves a number of specific situations which vary from country to country and between developed and developing countries, from highly mechanized agriculture in plantations to traditional methods in small-scale subsistence agriculture. One of the distinguishing characteristics of agricultural work is that it is carried out in an essentially rural environment where working and living conditions are interwoven. Furthermore, "agriculture" covers not only farming, but also many other associated activities such as crop processing and packaging, irrigation, pest management, grain storage, poultry, piggeries, fisheries, manure and domestic tasks (carrying water or fuel-wood, etc.). There are also environmental implications of agricultural production related to the degradation of natural resources and local and global environmental changes, which have to be considered. Agriculture is hence clearly both a specialized subject in itself as a sector, and involves many subsectors that require specialized expertise.

207. Agriculture is also a sector traditionally neglected as a result of the emphasis placed on industrial development, as well as the difficulties involved in dealing with its multiple problems. Among the main limitations, the following should be mentioned: in all countries, a wide variety of jobs are performed by agricultural workers, especially in small-scale farming; most of the work is done in the open air and consequently agricultural workers are dependent on weather changes to perform their tasks, which is an obstacle to the efficiency of the operations and may completely modify working conditions, making them difficult and dangerous (e.g. a rainstorm while harvesting, or the gust of a sudden wind during the application of pesticides). Socio-economic, cultural and environmental factors also influence the working and living conditions of farmers and agricultural workers. As agricultural work is carried out in the countryside, it is subject to the health risks inherent in a rural environment and at the same time to those of the specific work process involved (e.g. agrochemical exposure). Environmental pollution causes occupational and public health hazards to the workers, their families and the communities, the cattle and other farm animals, as well as the ecosystem. In developing countries, a large number of people below the poverty line live in the rural sector.31 Most agricultural workers in developing countries have poor housing conditions and an inadequate diet, and are exposed to both endemic and occupational diseases. They may live in extremely primitive conditions, usually dispersed in remote areas where roads are non-existent or inadequate and transportation is difficult. Agricultural workers are dependent on the general standards of public health services in rural areas where the provision of health care, adequate water supply and sanitation systems are generally insufficient. Rural communities often lack education and information on the health hazards they may face. Traditional health solutions have few effective mechanisms to reach rural communities. The environment in which rural people work and live, their standard of living and their nutrition are as important to their health as the services available to them.

208. Agriculture employs half of the world labour force, and an estimated 1.3 billion workers are active in agricultural production worldwide. Although the proportion of the workforce engaged in agriculture is under 10 per cent in the more developed regions (and under 3 per cent in the United States), the proportion is over 50 per cent in less developed regions. Nearly half of the latter are in wage labour.32 The most vulnerable groups are found in family subsistence agriculture, in plantations as daily paid labourers, seasonal or migrant workers without land and child labourers. This is particularly evident in the case of temporary workers and of small communities in remote areas. Temporary work in agriculture is characterized by casual forms of labour, precarious working conditions and little or no social protection. Temporary workers are more exposed to occupational hazards than other agricultural workers, and are lower paid. Migrant workers may also have language and cultural difficulties at work and in their daily lives. Seasonal workers may suffer from multiple physical and chemical exposures that accumulate from different workplaces. The proportion of women and children in agricultural employment is increasing. Women now account for 20 to 30 per cent of total agricultural wage employment, and child labour is widespread, in some countries accounting for as much as 30 per cent of the agricultural workforce.33

209. Agriculture is one of the most hazardous sectors in the world. According to ILO estimates, from a total of 330,000 fatal workplace accidents worldwide, there are some 170,000 casualties among agricultural workers each year.34 The increasing use of machinery and of pesticides and other agrochemicals has aggravated the risks. This is particularly evident in developing countries, where education, training and safety systems are largely inadequate. Agriculture is a particularly hazardous occupation even in the industrialized countries: in the United States the National Safety Council has ranked agriculture as one of the three most hazardous industries together with mining and construction.35 In several countries, the fatal accident rate in agriculture is double the average for all other industries. Machinery such as tractors and harvesters cause the highest frequency and fatality rates of injury. Exposure to pesticides and other agrochemicals constitutes one of the major occupational risks causing poisoning and death and in certain cases work-related cancer and reproductive impairments. It is estimated that developing countries consume more than 20 per cent of world production and are responsible for approximately 70 per cent of the total number of cases of acute poisoning occurring in the world, which corresponds to more than 1.1 million cases.36

210. Official data on the incidence of occupational accidents and diseases in all sectors are imprecise and notoriously underestimated due to inadequate and heterogeneous recording and notification systems. Under-reporting is even more evident in the case of the agricultural sector. The administrative machinery for collecting injury records and the incentive to report injuries are insufficient. Difficulties in diagnosis also lead to under-reporting in most countries. Certain hazards such as chronic conditions due to noise, vibration, low exposure to organic dusts or pesticides are more difficult to evaluate due to their long-term effects and uncertain symptoms. For example, reliable data on pesticide poisoning is difficult to obtain: only acute poisoning is reported, as it is likely to leave visible and immediate effects, requires hospitalization and may lead to death. By contrast, cumulative low exposures to pesticides are often not recorded because the symptoms are imprecise and the effects may show only after a long period of time. Under-reporting is also partially explained by the difficulties involved in establishing the employment status of agricultural workers: piece-rate, full-time or part-time work, seasonal and migrant work, etc. Agricultural workers suffer markedly higher rates of accidents and fatal injuries than workers in other sectors, with very few resources available for compensation. In many countries, agricultural workers are excluded from any employment injury benefit or insurance scheme. Self-employed farmers are rarely covered by any recording and notification system and have access to social security benefits only on a voluntary basis on the grounds of their own contributions. Fewer than 20 per cent of the world's agricultural wage-earners are covered by one or more of the nine contingencies of the ILO's Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102). These are: medical care, sickness and maternity benefits, family benefits, unemployment benefits, employment injury, invalidity and survivors' benefits and old-age benefits.37

National legislation

211. Agriculture tends to be omitted from the occupational safety and health regulations of many countries. According to available information, comprehensive legislation on occupational safety and health addressing the sector is almost non-existent. Only a few countries have any special provisions on occupational safety and health relating to agriculture.38 In addition, general labour laws may not be applicable in full to the agricultural sector. In certain cases, general laws such as occupational safety and health acts give a marginal reference to the sector; in others there are few specific regulations or decrees. Most of these regulations concern: safety of machinery and equipment (mainly tractors and harvesters); substances or agents used in agriculture (in particular pesticides); prohibitions on the employment of certain categories of workers; prohibitions on the operation of certain type of equipment for those under 18 years of age. Other regulations relevant to agriculture refer to social security measures and working conditions (wages, hours of work, etc.).

Action at the international level

212. In November 1976 the Council of the European Communities adopted a resolution39 concerning measures to simplify agricultural legislation among their Members in order to implement a common agricultural policy. The Commission was requested to improve coordination between all bodies concerned for the preparation and implementation of the agricultural legislation. This initiative concerned mainly market relations and essential economic requirements for the implementation of common agricultural policy mechanisms. With particular reference to occupational safety and health directives, the debates on the programme of the European Commission concerning safety, health and hygiene, which took place from 1987 to 1992, contributed to a dynamic process in which a number of directives specifically addressing occupational safety and health were adopted. Furthermore, the European Commission included agriculture as a high-risk sector in their action programme on safety, hygiene and health in 1988. The ILO's Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), and Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161), constituted an important precedent for the legislative reforms proposed during that period, and included the introduction of a broader scope in national legislation. The Council Directive on Safety and Health at Work of 198940 constitutes the best example. It applies to all sectors of economic activity, including agriculture, without prejudice to more stringent European Union provisions to be adopted in the future. A number of safety and health directives based on this Framework Directive have been adopted since then. However, existing Council directives on occupational safety and health, addressing specifically agriculture, deal mainly with pesticides, machinery safety and the ergonomic design of agricultural and forestry machinery. The need for a directive on the protection of workers in agriculture has been discussed within the European Commission on a number of occasions, but a proposal has never been officially made.41

Relation to existing instruments

213. A series of ILO Conventions and Recommendations concern occupational safety and health issues relevant to agriculture or specific aspects of agriculture relevant to occupational safety and health. They include the following:

214. There is worldwide recognition that agriculture is a particularly hazardous sector, alongside mining and construction. International standards and up-to-date codes of practice already exist for the last two. Although the ILO has also elaborated a series of codes of practice and guides of direct concern to occupational safety and health in agriculture and related issues as background work,42 these need to be consolidated and revised. In spite of the multitude of related standards and although agriculture is covered along with other sectors by the ILO's framework Convention on Occupational Safety and Health, 1981 (No. 155), which applies to all branches of economic activity, there is no Convention dealing comprehensively with the safety and health problems of agricultural workers. In this context, there is a need for a more holistic approach to occupational safety and health standards. Occupational safety and health in agriculture needs to be addressed with a well-defined strategy and must be integrated into a rural development policy involving both commercial (plantations) and small-scale farming.

Progress made in research and preparatory work

215. Based on the principles of Convention No. 155, a model strategy for developing occupational safety and health in agriculture was drawn up and tested within the framework of a technical cooperation project on occupational safety and health in agriculture in the Central American region from 1993 to 1997. The project strategy was oriented towards the implementation of a national policy for the improvement of occupational safety and health in agriculture, for the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases in agriculture, and the protection of workers' health and the environment. The experience gained through this project has demonstrated the need for an integrated approach including occupational, public and environmental health, which is consistent with current trends at the national and international levels. According to present technical assessments, the model is sound and its replication in other countries and regions advisable.

216. A wide range of issues related to the conditions of employment and work of wage workers in agriculture were discussed at a sectoral meeting organized by the ILO in Geneva in 1996. The resolutions adopted at that meeting emphasized the need for further studies, research and technical assistance for agriculture.43 Even though technical cooperation activities in the last biennium have provided for an insight into the magnitude of the problem, further research needs to be undertaken, including a law and practice analysis and an assessment of existing codes of practice and other international directives, in order to allow the Office to specify the content and scope of international standards concerning occupational safety and health in agriculture from a broader international perspective.

217. Even though agriculture employs half of the working population worldwide and is recognized both in developing and industrialized countries as one of the three most hazardous sectors, agricultural workers are under-protected as compared to workers in other sectors. Furthermore, due to rural unemployment and the migration of men to big cities, women and child labourers are increasingly engaged in agricultural work.

218. In order to guarantee sustainable agricultural growth, the productivity of the workforce should be raised by supplying it with the means to meet its basic needs, providing agricultural workers and their families with adequate working and living conditions, protecting their health and welfare, as well as the environment. Product quality standards should accompany improvements in working conditions. Investment in occupational safety and health provides improved working conditions, higher labour productivity and healthier labour relations. Working conditions in agriculture can be significantly improved in a viable and cost-effective way through safety and health measures. A prerequisite for such improvements is the adoption of adequate labour legislation and social protection measures.

219. New standards, possibly preceded by a code of practice, could be envisaged which would establish general principles covering appropriate working methods and practices in the agricultural sector, including the following main components: the legislative framework, inter-institutional coordination involving all the relevant institutions at the national level, an institutional framework (tripartite committee or council) responsible for the implementation of national policy on occupational safety and health in agriculture, a system of classification and prevention of occupational exposure to chemicals, a health surveillance system for occupational accidents and diseases at the enterprise level, including notification and recording, environmental protection measures and the strengthening of national capacity through information and training. The standards could include such elements as objectives, coverage and scope, definitions, application to and exception of specific forms of economic activity, ways of assessing risk of exposure, occupational health services, the role of the competent authorities, the responsibilities of employers, the rights and duties of workers, and information and training.

220. Work during the current biennium will give special attention to agriculture as a particularly hazardous sector. It would also be a special focus of technical assistance for member States in the framework of the ILO's proposed Global Programme on Occupational Safety, Health and the Environment.44

Concluding remarks

221. There is a compelling case for protective legislation in order to meet the challenge of improving the working conditions and welfare of agricultural workers. A Convention containing basic principles of safety and health in agriculture supplemented by a Recommendation would provide a framework on which subsequent national legislation could be based. These standards could be usefully preceded by the preparation of a code of practice, unless the Governing Body considers that the Office should accelerate preparatory work and orient it directly towards standard setting.

* * *

8.  Basic social security standards


This proposal suggests that a fresh look needs to be taken at new developments in social security and that some of the issues of social security reform that a number of countries have been experiencing in recent years should be raised in a general discussion at the International Labour Conference in the year 2000. Such a discussion could provide insights into, and guidelines for, social security policies that constituents would like to pursue, and highlight the implications these new developments may have for ILO standard-setting activities in this area.

In the year 2000 the International Labour Conference could be called upon to restate and develop an ILO vision of social security that should both remain rooted in the basic values that constitute the foundation of the ILO and be responsive to the new issues and challenges facing social security. This contribution is intended to provide some key elements as background information on the issues that could be the focus of a proposed general discussion. Such a general discussion could, in a second stage, lead to the development of new instruments or to the possible updating or revision of existing standards.


222. The various social security standards adopted by the ILO reflect the major conceptual changes that the role and functioning of social security have undergone since the beginning of this century. Before the Second World War, the social security standards pertained to the "social insurance era" when compulsory insurance schemes were progressively elaborated for the principal contingencies, covering most categories of workers. After the war, people were optimistic about the possibilities of extending social security protection to the whole population in all countries. This optimism was inspired by the classical development assumption that all workers would sooner or later end up in large enterprises, or at least in the formal sector. This enthusiasm was reflected in the Beveridge Report in the United Kingdom, and in the Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944 when the International Labour Conference recognized its solemn obligation to further among the nations of the world programmes to achieve "... the extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care". In the same year, the ILO adopted two Recommendations: the Income Security Recommendation, 1944 (No. 67), including both social insurance (contribution-based) and social assistance (based on general revenue) as well as the Medical Care Recommendation, 1944 (No. 69).

223. Subsequently, during the "social security era", standards were developed with the idea of unifying and coordinating different social insurance schemes within a comprehensive social security system covering all workers and their families, including self-employed workers. A landmark in international social security was the adoption in 1952 of the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (No. 102). This brought together in one comprehensive text the policies to which the member States of the time were prepared to subscribe, and defined the range of benefits that form the core of social security. It laid down minimum requirements on coverage of the population and the content and level of benefits, including the protection of the rights of contributors and beneficiaries and ancillary matters of administration.45 This Convention introduced the objective of a basic level of social security that should be attained globally, whatever the degree of economic development, subject to certain temporary exceptions.

224. Subsequent Conventions set higher and more elaborate standards covering wider categories of the population, and are said to belong to the third generation of ILO social security instruments. They form, inside the general social security system, four well-defined areas: one consisting of branches providing long-term benefits (invalidity, old-age and survivors' benefits), another regrouping short-term benefits (medical care and sickness benefits), accompanied by two other sets of standards dealing with employment injuries and unemployment benefits. The remaining two branches covered by Convention No. 102 -- maternity protection and family benefits -- fall outside this process. These standards should be examined in the light of emerging new concepts of family responsibilities, parental leave and child care. The ILO standards concerning maternity protection are in fact under revision.46

225. As highlighted by the Committee of Experts in 1996, the principal current concern of many constituents appears to be the management and rationalization of social security resources. The various branches of social security have gradually been the subject of a process of reform which has mainly been focused on preserving the financial viability of the systems. Along with these reforms, certain moves have been made towards privatization.47 Increasing concerns are being expressed about the effect of these developments on the level of protection provided to workers and the population as a whole.

226. In industrialized countries the ageing of the population makes it necessary to review financing mechanisms for pension schemes, and cost containment is emerging as a key problem for health insurance. In the field of unemployment and social assistance benefits, the main issue today is the integration of social security within the framework of active labour market policies.48 Many developing countries are experiencing difficulties related to the management and governance of social security systems, with a concomitant erosion of participants' confidence in the viability of the systems. In addition, structural and other adjustment measures have often implied a reduction of wages both in the public and the private sectors and a reduction of government budgets for social services (and in particular health). As a result, expenses for social services seem, to an increasing degree, to be relegated to individuals.

227. ILO social security standards have, to a large extent, contributed to the high level of coverage of the population in developed and a few developing countries. However, for the majority of developing countries this aim is still very far from being reached. Even in countries with high economic growth, more and more workers are faced with less secure and more informal types of employment, such as self-employed, casual and homeworkers.

228. It would seem necessary, in order to guide the orientation of a general discussion on social security reforms, to examine first the new challenges facing social security. These important challenges include the high levels of poverty and unemployment; demographic changes; changes in employment patterns, including the development of non-standard forms of employment; and changes in perceptions of the role of the State, in family structures (nuclear families, two-earner families, single-parent families), etc. In addition, it would be useful to define a number of principles, concepts and best practices that could provide guidance to the actors in the reform process. This discussion should be held in the light of the basic values of importance to the ILO, such as protection, solidarity and equality.

Key issues for a general discussion

229. Taking into account the profound changes and uncertainties facing many social security systems, the Office proposed a possible review of the basic principles of social security within the context of a general discussion at the Conference. This proposal was included in the draft portfolio examined by the Governing Body in November 1997.49

230. The discussions at the Governing Body in November 1997 also revealed that further questions should be considered in the context of a general discussion at the Conference. These concern, first, equality of treatment between men and women in social security. In addition, the examination of social security Conventions by the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards led to the conclusion that a revision of the main social security instruments would be premature and that the Office should undertake a high-level technical study of the principles contained in Convention No. 102.50 In addition, one of the main problems of current social security systems remains their limitative focus on workers in the formal sector, to the exclusion, by law and in fact, of the informal sector. This question could also be discussed within the context of a general discussion. Thus, possible themes of a general discussion on social security include the following:

The Governing Body is invited to decide either to include all of these themes, or to make a selection therefrom for the purpose of a general discussion.

231. It should be recalled that, in a second stage, the last three themes could result in normative action, should the Conference so decide. Equality of treatment between men and women could be the subject of new standards, either in the form of a new instrument, or perhaps in the form of an additional Protocol. The extension of basic social security protection could lead to the development of new standards. Furthermore, a decision to review existing social security standards could result in a possible updating or revision of some of these standards.

(a)  Review of basic social security principles and concepts

232. A research project on the principles of social security is included in the Programme and Budget for the 1998-99 biennium. While this project will eventually provide further guidance in this area, it is envisaged that the review of basic social security principles should include a discussion on the following:

233. In addition, it would seem useful to focus a discussion on some of the following basic concepts and policy approaches:

(b)  Equality of treatment in social security, in particular between men and women

234. This issue has become increasingly important in the light of far-reaching changes in family structures as well as the changed role of women in the labour market. Women occupy most of the part-time, low-income, intermittent and precarious jobs, which more often than not fall outside the coverage of social security. Most women also often assume the greater part of parental responsibility and have therefore less time to build up their social security rights. Moreover, in most societies women still have a lower retirement age which very often makes it difficult for them to fulfil the qualifying conditions for full benefits. Men, on the other hand, also face inequality of treatment, as in most countries survivors' benefits are granted only to widows.(51) 

235. For these reasons, a general discussion by the International Labour Conference could also focus on the promotion of equal treatment between men and women. Some particular items that could be discussed, and that would be amenable to the development or updating of standards, are the following:

236. Depending on the outcome of a general discussion, future standard- setting action in this field might be envisaged.

(c)  Extension of basic social security protection

237. In spite of wide regional differences in formal coverage of social security, one of the key current global problems is that more than half of the world's workforce (and their dependants) are not covered by social security systems. In addition, workers in the informal sector are usually barred from access to formal social security systems through a variety of explicit and implicit restrictions with regard to occupation, enterprise size, wage levels and employment contracts. Moreover, experience shows that even if such restrictions were lifted, informal sector workers would not voluntarily join such schemes. One of the main reasons seems to be that the social security priorities of workers in the informal sector usually do not include old-age pensions, which often constitute a major benefit provided by formal social security schemes. Workers in the informal sector also tend to be exposed to risks and calamities, such as death, disability and large medical bills that can throw them into a permanent state of indebtedness. Consequently, their social security priorities are usually in vital life areas, such as health, and survivors' and disability benefits.

238. Among the most vulnerable groups outside the labour force are the disabled and the old who cannot count on family support, who do not have access to other forms of social benefits and who have not been able to make provisions for their own pensions. There is a need to develop new institutions and forms of social assistance financed by the state or from external resources to meet the specific social security needs of these groups.

239. It could be discussed whether standards promoting the extension of basic social security protection could include items such as: a reaffirmation of the right to social security, as included in the relevant ILO instruments, as well as in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;52 a commitment by member States to formulate and implement a strategy for extending basic social security protection; and the possible adoption of statistical indicators for measuring personal coverage and the basic level of social security protection, which would permit constituents to measure progress in this field.

240. Consideration could also be given to whether such standards should include guidelines on the design, management and administration of social security schemes (including both social insurance and social assistance) or the development of national and international policies and strategies; measures to increase personal coverage; a design for appropriate social assistance schemes that complement other anti-poverty programmes; or encouragement for the development of self-financed social protection schemes tailored for special groups of (informal-sector) workers.

(d)  Possible updating or revision of existing standards

241. A general discussion at the Conference could also focus on the possible implications of these new developments for the ILO in terms of standard setting, by either updating or revising existing standards.

242. The importance of Convention No. 102 has been reiterated on several occasions, including in previous general surveys.53 It is both a comprehensive and a flexible instrument which formulates the main social security principles and sets minimum standards in the nine main branches of social security. Under certain conditions it also entitles State Parties to limit their ratification to a minimum of three branches. In spite of the flexibility and importance of Convention No. 102, only 40 member States have ratified it.54 Most of these ratifications took place within the first ten years after its adoption. Since then it has continued to receive ratifications at a slower, but rather even, rate. The last ratification dates back to 1994 (Portugal).55 One of the two main obstacles which seem to prevent ratification is the technical nature and considerable complexity of the Convention. In addition, some trends underlying social security reform in a number of countries are evolving in a direction that is not consistent with the principles and concepts embodied in Convention No. 102.

243. It is suggested that the possible review of existing social security standards should be guided by certain main objectives which would include: to obtain a higher rate of ratification of Conventions; to reflect basic social security principles and take account of emerging social security values; to give guidelines for the reform and development of social security systems; and to ensure that the interests of the people protected and especially the level of social protection will be fully taken into consideration.

244. In conclusion, it is proposed to hold a general discussion at the International Labour Conference in the year 2000 with a view to restating and developing an ILO vision on basic social security standards. The outcome of such a discussion could become an important tool in setting the direction for any possible reform in this area, both at the national and international levels, and in identifying needs for future standard-setting activities, including needs for revision, in the social security field.

* * *

9.  Youth employment


Young people often encounter difficulties in entering productive employment, and youth unemployment is chronic in many member States. With a few notable exceptions, throughout the world the rate of unemployment among young people is much higher than among adults. An overview of the problem is presented here. This is followed by a summary of recent ILO work on the question, which has identified a number of elements that might contribute to an effective response. Among these, attention should be paid to the overall economic and employment situation; youth employment policies need to be administered in an integrated framework which also takes into account educational policies; attention needs to be paid to the expectations and aspirations of young people; programmes should be carefully targeted, and, in particular, more attention needs to be paid to the situation of those with lower levels of education and skills. In many countries there is also a dearth of adequate and up-to-date labour market information that would help in the design of policy and provide better information to young people themselves on available opportunities. Similarly, programmes are often implemented without adequate mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation, which is of fundamental importance in identifying which schemes work and why. Research has demonstrated that the involvement of employers' and workers' organizations in the design and implementation of policy and programmes improves their effectiveness.

    Issues for discussion are suggested, including which types of programmes are appropriate in which circumstances; the role of compulsory schooling; the question of sub-minimum wages for young people and whether young people may be paid lower training allowances in exchange for high-quality training from employers; the question of whether schemes should be compulsory; and which mechanisms are appropriate for the involvement of the social partners.


245. Young people often encounter difficulties in entering productive employment and youth unemployment is chronic in many member States. With a few notable exceptions, throughout the world the rate of unemployment among young people is much higher than among adults. In industrialized countries as a whole, the unemployment rate of the 15-24 age group in 1993 was 17 per cent for young women, and 16 per cent for young men. This compares with figures of 8.2 per cent and 7 per cent for all women and men respectively.

246. In developing countries, figures are less widely available. However, existing data suggest that the gap between youth and adult unemployment rates is even wider than in industrialized countries. For example, in Indonesia the female youth unemployment rate in 1994 was 12.5 per cent, compared to 2.2 per cent for adults. The comparable figures for males were 11.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. Youth unemployment rates in Zimbabwe in 1993 stood at around 21 per cent for males and 11 per cent for females, compared to overall male and female unemployment rates of 9.5 and 4.5 per cent respectively. The female youth unemployment rate in Jamaica in 1995 stood at 43.9 per cent, and that for males at 25.0 per cent, while adult rates were 14.7 per cent for females and 5.5 per cent for males. Furthermore, in developing countries the problem of open youth unemployment is compounded by the existence of substantial levels of underemployment and poor-quality informal sector employment. The widespread existence of both phenomena suggests that the problem of the integration of young people into the labour market in developing countries is even more serious than is suggested by an examination of open unemployment rates.

247. In transition economies, youth unemployment also has a similar pattern. Given the massive reductions in output in many transition economies, the problem is undoubtedly more serious than in most industrialized countries. For example, female youth unemployment in Poland in 1994 was 34.5 per cent, compared to an adult female rate of 14.5 per cent. The corresponding figures for males were 27.3 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively. Similarly, in Romania in 1994, the rate of youth unemployment for females was 25.8 per cent, compared to 7.3 per cent for adults. For males the figures were 20.2 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively. As a result of the process of rapid transition to a market economy, recent years have witnessed the emergence of sizeable groups of young persons who are detached from the economic mainstream in these countries.

248. The problem of youth unemployment and underemployment is a serious one. Although youth unemployment tends to be of shorter duration than adult unemployment, patterns of behaviour established early in life are likely to persist throughout a person's "working" life. Unemployment early on in a career increases the likelihood of further and more prolonged spells of unemployment later in life and permanently affects their employability. Similarly, underemployment and low- quality informal sector employment are likely to be self-reinforcing, condemning young people to a lifetime of insecure and poor-quality marginal employment. Lack of productive and freely chosen employment early on in life is also associated with other social problems such as crime and drug abuse, which may become very hard to alter later in life.

249. The question also arises of which groups of young people are of special concern. The standard UN definition is of those between 15 and 24 years old. Yet even with this fairly straightforward definition, the problems faced by the people comprising this group are by no means the same. A first distinction may be made between teenagers (15-19) and young adults (20-24). The problems faced by these two groups in obtaining high quality jobs are quite different.

250. Furthermore, a number of subgroups within the category of young people perhaps merit special attention. In general, for example, young women either experience higher unemployment rates than their male counterparts, or they have lower labour force participation rates. Ethnic minorities also often face greater difficulties in entering productive employment, as do those with lower levels of education and skills. Many developing countries are confronted with the problem of the "educated unemployed". However, these represent a fairly small group in numerical terms. Taking into account levels of underemployment and poor-quality informal sector employment, the more serious problem lies with those poorly equipped to enter productive employment, particularly those with low levels of education and skills.

The international policy context

251. Many ILO member States are concerned with the integration of young people into working life and the quality of the work they take up. From its very beginning, the ILO has adopted Conventions and Recommendations relevant to improving the lot of young people. The Night Work (Women) Convention, 1919 (No. 4), the Minimum Age (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 5), and the Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 6), contain provisions for the protection of working young people. More recently, attention has turned to the effective integration of young people into working life. Of relevance in this regard is the report to the 72nd International Labour Conference in 1986 and the subsequent resolution concerning young people.56 In 1996, the 83rd Session of the International Labour Conference adopted the Conclusions concerning the achievement of full employment in a global context: The responsibility of governments, employers and trade unions.57 These conclusions included the affirmation that countries should design and implement special measures to enhance the employability of vulnerable groups such as young workers.

252. Several initiatives have been launched recently that are of special relevance to the ILO's work on youth and employment. The first is the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995. The implementation of this programme involves many parts of the UN and specialized agencies, including the ILO. At the World Youth Forum held in Vienna in November 1996, the Working Group on Youth and Employment, co-chaired by an ILO representative, produced a number of policy recommendations and conclusions. It endorsed proposals for action on opportunities for self-employment, creating employment opportunities for specific groups of young people and promoting community services involving young people. The working group also recommended the implementation of appropriate labour market programmes designed for youth. A ministerial meeting on youth under the auspices of the Portuguese Government is scheduled to take place in Lisbon in August 1998.

253. Commitment 3 of the Declaration adopted by the World Summit for Social Development in March 1995 also makes explicit reference to the problems of young people, stating that "special attention" should be given to "the problems of structural long-term unemployment and underemployment of youth".

254. In November 1997, at the Kobe Jobs Conference, the Chairperson's conclusions affirmed that "the promotion of youth employment through appropriate policies is crucial",and that "achieving a smooth transition from school to work is the key to addressing the youth employment problem".The Chairperson suggested that measures should include "the provision of work experience both at school and off the school curriculum, access to career information, counselling, [...] effective job placement and vocational training".

255. Also in November 1997, the European Commission adopted the 1998 guidelines for employment policy which state that "Member States will ensure that every unemployed young person is offered a new start before reaching six months of unemployment, in the form of training, retraining, work practice, a job or other employability measure".

256. The OECD has also undertaken several initiatives related to the question of youth and employment. At present, the OECD secretariat is in the process of completing the first stage of a "Thematic Review of the Transition from Initial Education to Working Life" which will form the basis of a high-level meeting on the problem of youth and employment to be held in the second half of 1998.

Action Programme on Youth Unemployment

257. During the 1996-97 biennium, the ILO has undertaken an Action Programme on Youth Unemployment. The principal objectives of the action programme were: (i) to raise awareness among constituents of the problems associated with the entry into the labour market of young people; (ii) to improve their understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the principal policy and programme options for tackling the problem of youth unemployment; and, thus (iii) to enhance the capacity of member States to design and implement policies and programmes for promoting youth employment both at the macroeconomic and microeconomic levels.

258. The action programme comprised a series of country case-studies as well as analyses of specific policy issues aimed principally at addressing the following issues in industrialized, transition and developing economies:

Action Programme on Strategies to Combat Youth Marginalization and Unemployment

259. The objective of this action programme, to be implemented in the 1998-99 biennium, is to develop a coherent and systematic method of intervention for developing countries, which can be adapted to national situations and integrated into employment policies in order to combat the social exclusion and unemployment of young people.

The causes of youth unemployment

260. Youth unemployment is closely related to the level of adult unemployment and more generally to national economic conditions. Research58 has shown that, in most cases, changes in youth unemployment are more or less proportionate to variations in adult unemployment. Youth unemployment is almost everywhere significantly higher than adult unemployment, however, so that in absolute terms youth unemployment increases more quickly in recession, but also recovers faster when the economy picks up.

261. There are a number of reasons why youth unemployment is greater and more variable than adult unemployment. When firms face recessions, young workers are often the first to be retrenched, because they are the least costly to release. Also, young people comprise a disproportionate share of new jobseekers. Very often the first reaction of firms to a recession is to halt or reduce new hiring. For obvious reasons, young people will thus be more deeply affected by any interruption in hiring than their older counterparts.

262. An important issue is the relative importance of different factors in causing youth unemployment. What role does the economic context play, and is this more important than other factors such as the size of the youth population and the level of wages paid to young people in relation to adult wage rates? A recent ILO study59 has shown that youth unemployment is principally related to the level and growth rates of aggregate demand, which outweigh the influence of the relative size of the youth population. This is particularly relevant to many developing countries and especially sub-Saharan Africa, where the youth population is expected to continue to grow rapidly both in absolute and relative terms. However, since aggregate demand is more important than the size of the youth population in determining the level of youth unemployment, an adequate employment-intensive economic growth performance will significantly help in alleviating the problems associated with expanding youth populations.

263. This study also found that the wages of young people relative to adults played little or no role in determining the level of youth unemployment. Apart from the more formal econometric estimates, this is evidenced by the fact that in most OECD countries youth unemployment has continued to increase in the 1990s despite falls in the youth/adult relative wage in those countries.

Elements of an effective response

Economic conditions

264. The overall implication of the analysis of the causes of youth unemployment is that any policy for promoting youth employment should take into account the current state of the economy. The relative usefulness of different types of policy measures, such as employment subsidies and training programmes will depend on general economic performance. Vocational training programmes do not necessarily create post-programme employment opportunities. Employment subsidies and public works schemes may be equally successful in maintaining the labour market attachment of participants. However, these measures are less likely to inculcate in participants unrealistic expectations of long-term job opportunities. On the other hand, it may be advantageous for firms to use periods of reduced demand to increase and upgrade the skills of its existing workforce so as to be ready for increased production when the economy does pick up. Government support for such skills development would help avoid lay-offs during recessions.

265. Secondly, promoting youth employment should be part of an overall strategy of employment creation through the promotion of employment-intensive economic growth. Recent ILO reports have suggested that an investment-led strategy remains a viable option.60

An integrated approach

266. Youth employment policies and programmes may be more effective if they are integrated with educational policies. One step in this direction has been taken by some member States, for example in the United Kingdom, with the unification of the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science into the new Department for Employment and Education. This may help avoid the development of education and employment policies that are effectively in competition with each other. Moreover, the educational curriculum should, at least to some extent, take into account the vocational needs of young people. In a number of countries it has been suggested that educational policies are too theoretically oriented. School curricula should to some extent reflect the requirements of young people when they enter the labour market.

267. Furthermore, within the realm of youth employment policy, efficiency may be enhanced if different programmes are integrated with each other. In many developing countries, there are numerous small-scale schemes and programmes for promoting youth employment. However, these programmes require careful coordination: there are no real links between them. For example, it has been suggested that lower level pre-vocational programmes providing basic education should be linked to the more advanced vocational training schemes. This would ensure effective use of resources and encourage greater complementarity between programmes.


268. Attention should also be paid to the expectations of young people. In many countries there appears to be a serious mismatch between the job expectations of young people and the type of employment they can realistically expect to obtain. One manifestation of this is the phenomenon of "educated unemployment". This is particularly marked in many developing countries where the young with relatively high levels of education expect to obtain employment in the public or formal sectors. With the contraction of such forms of employment under structural adjustment programmes, such expectations are unrealistic for most young people. In part, the development of more appropriate expectations may be achieved through the collection and dissemination to young people of up-to-date labour market information.


269. Programmes should be carefully targeted for two reasons. First, on the grounds of efficiency: many studies have shown that more closely targeted programmes are more successful. Secondly, on the grounds of equity: particularly when there are clear cases of labour market surplus, social justice suggests that we should aid those young people who are most in need of help. The experience of most countries with youth employment programmes is that, very often, they have benefited principally those people who were already in a position to help themselves even without the aid of programmes. More attention might be given to those young people who are the least likely to succeed on the labour market without outside intervention.

Labour market information

270. Many developing countries also share the problem of lacking up-to-date and accurate labour market information. Better information on the labour market situation of different types of individuals would allow for more appropriate targeting of policies and programmes. Also, better information on the requirements of employers would aid in the design of vocational training and other programmes. As noted above, better labour market information may also help young people make informed choices concerning their working lives.

Role of the social partners

271. Much research has shown that the effectiveness of youth employment policy may be enhanced when employers' and workers' organizations are effectively involved in its design and implementation. The involvement of employers' and workers' organizations would help identify the appropriate forms of training and employment programmes for job opportunities. It also means that these organizations are stakeholders in the whole process and are therefore committed to its success. For example, Germany has managed to maintain levels of youth unemployment, and in particular teenage unemployment, below those of their adult counterparts, because both employers' and workers' organizations were involved in the development and implementation of youth employment policy.

Monitoring and evaluation

272. Monitoring and evaluation is a fundamental requirement for the effective implementation of policies and programmes for promoting youth employment. While monitoring and evaluation is fairly common in industrialized countries, in transition and especially developing economies relatively little attention is paid to this. Monitoring serves the basic function of ensuring that programmes are actually implemented as planned. Evaluation combined with monitoring can serve the purpose of refining programmes and identifying where and why programmes succeed or fail. It may be argued that such monitoring and evaluation should be built in at the programme design phase.

Policy issues for discussion

273. If selected as a topic for general discussion, the Conference may find it appropriate to discuss some of the following questions:

* * *

274. In the light of the above proposals and those contained in document GB.270/2 on the following questions, the Governing Body is invited to determine the agenda of the 88th Session (2000) of the International Labour Conference:

  1. Human resources development: Vocational guidance and vocational training.
  2. Investment and employment.
  3. Promotion of cooperatives.
  4. The settlement of labour disputes.
  5. The prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.
  6. Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases (including the revision of the list of occupational diseases, Schedule I to the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121)).
  7. Safety and health in agriculture.
  8. Basic social security standards.
  9. Youth employment.

The Governing Body may also, if it wishes, already decide to include on the agenda of the 88th Session (2000) of the Conference the revision of one or more existing standards on the basis of the recommendations made by the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards in its report to the present session of the Governing Body.

Geneva, 11 February 1998.

Points for decision:

1. GB.254/16/19, para. 5.

2. Para. 10.5.

3. GB.270/2.

4. Document GB.268/2.

5. Creating a favourable climate and conditions for cooperative development in ... Africa (1993), Asia (1994), Latin America (1996), and Central and Eastern Europe (1996).

6. GB.264/10.

7. GB.256/6/7; background paper appended.

8. Proposals on this subject were previously submitted to the Governing Body at its 261st, 262nd, 267th and 268th Sessions.

9. ILO: Equality in Employment and Occupation, General Survey by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, International Labour Conference, 75th Session, 1988, Report III (Part 4B), Geneva, 1988, para. 45; and ILO: Equality in Employment and Occupation, Special Survey by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, International Labour Conference, 83rd Session, 1996, Report III (Part 4B), Geneva, 1996, paras. 39 and 40.

10. United Nations: Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Eleventh Session, General Assembly, Official Records, 47th Session, Supplement No. 38, A/47/38, New York, 1992, para. 18.

11. Michael Rubenstein: "Dealing with sexual harassment at work: The experience of industrialized countries" in Combating Sexual Harassment at Work: Conditions of Work Digest, Vol. 11, 1/1992, ILO, Geneva, pp. 13-14.

12. Rubenstein, op. cit., p. 8.

13. A 1992 analysis of collective agreement provisions and of employers' policy statements, directives and guidelines found the language in most cases to be sex neutral. See Conditions of Work Digest, op. cit. p. 177.

14. Conditions of Work Digest, op. cit.

15. J. Aeberhard-Hodges: "Sexual harassment in employment: Recent judicial and arbitral trends" in International Labour Review, Vol. 135, No. 5 (ILO, Geneva, 1996), pp. 501-502, and other information available to the Office.

16. See "Legal approaches to sexual harassment at work" in Combating Sexual Harassment at Work: Conditions of Work Digest, op. cit., pp. 49-173.

17. Rubenstein, op. cit., p. 13.

18. Aeberhard-Hodges, op. cit., p. 503.

19. Rubenstein, op. cit., p. 14.

20. For example, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.

21. For example, the Federation of Irish Employers and the New Zealand Employers' Federation.

22. For example, the Clerical Workers' Union of Denmark (Handels- og Kontorfunktionærernes Forbund).

23. For example, the Women's Section of the Trade Union Confederation of Workers' Committees of Spain (Secretaría Sindical de Comisiones Obreras).

24. See "Research, awareness raising, training and advisory services to combat sexual harassment at work", in Conditions of Work Digest, op. cit., pp. 285-300.

25. ILO: Conclusions and Recommendations: Tripartite Symposium on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Men and Women in Employment in Industrialized Countries: Report, SEEIC/1990/2, Geneva, 1990, paras. 24 and 25.

26. Para. 179.

27. Previous contributions on this theme were submitted to the Governing Body in March and November 1997. See GB.268/2, paras. 9-41, and GB.270/2, paras. 210-226.

28. GB.261/STM/4/14 and GB.261/8/26, para. 14.

29. GB.244/2/2, paras. 96-116;  GB.259/2/2, paras. 226-248.;  GB.262/2, paras. 69-94;  GB.268/2, paras. 9-41.

30. GB.254/2/1, paras. 53-64.

31. Atlas of the World Bank, World Bank, Washington, DC, 1997.

32. ILO: Year Book of Labour Statistics, 1996; W.M. Coombs: "Agricultural health -- Quo Vadis", OccHSA Vol. No. 4, July/Aug. 1995. The state of food and agriculture, FAO, Rome, 1996.

33. ILO sources, unpublished, Oct. 1997. Wage workers in agriculture: Conditions of employment and work, report to the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers in the Context of Economic Restructuring, ILO, Geneva, 1996 (TMAWW/1996).

34. ILO: Year Book of Labour Statistics, Geneva, 1996. International Accident Facts, National Safety Council, Illinois, United States, 1995. The Global Burden of Disease, Global burden of disease and injury series, eds. Christopher J.L. Murray and Alan D. Lopez, WHO, World Bank, Harvard School of Public Health, Washington DC, 1997. The state of food and agriculture, FAO, Rome, 1996.

35. International Accident Facts, National Safety Council, Illinois, United States, 1991, 1995.

36. "Chemicals in the working environment", in World Labour Report, ILO, Geneva, 1994. International Accident Facts, National Safety Council, Illinois, United States, 1995. ILO: Wage workers in agriculture: Conditions of employment and work, report to the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers in the Context of Economic Restructuring, ILO, Geneva, 1996 (TMAWW/1996).

37. Wage workers in agriculture: Conditions of employment and work, report to the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers in the Context of Economic Restructuring, ILO, Geneva, 1996 (TMAWW/1996).

38. Such as: Argentina, Australia, Austria, the former Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom. Some are more comprehensive than others. For example, Argentina has approved in 1997 an OSH Act for the agricultural sector (Reglamento de Higiene y Seguridad para la Actividad Agraria); France has, among other relevant regulations, a list of occupational diseases specifically for agriculture and regulations on occupational medical services for agricultural undertakings.

39. Official Journal of the European Communities, Vol. 19, No. C 287, 4 Dec. 1976.

40. Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. Official Journal of the European Communities, No. L183, Vol. 32, 29 June 1989.

41. "L'observatoire du BTS sur l'application des directives européennes: un premier bilan". L'environnement du travail dans l'Union européenne: le difficile passage du droit à la pratique, Laurent Vogel, Bureau Technique Syndical Européen pour la Santé et la Sécurité. TUTB Conférence 1997, Bruxelles, 1-2 décembre 1997.

42. Codes of practice: Safe design and use of chain saws (1978); Safety and health in forestry work (to be revised); Safe construction and operation of tractors (1976); Guides: Guide to safety in agriculture (1969); Guide to health and hygiene in agricultural work (1979); Safety and health in the use of agrochemicals: A guide (1987). In addition, work is under way on the preparation of a guide on the extension of occupational health services to agriculture, and on guidelines on ergonomic measures to improve work practices and reduce occupational injuries. These codes of practice are translated into various languages and are also used for technical cooperation activities.

43. Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers in the Context of Economic Restructuring, ILO, Geneva, 23-27 September 1996, Note on the Proceedings, resolutions adopted by the Meeting, pp. 29-31 (TMAWW/14/1996).

44. Programme and Budget for 1998-99, para. 90.2.

45. See further, ILO: Introduction to social security, 3rd ed., Geneva, 1989, pp. 1-9.

46. The revision of the Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95), is on the agenda for consideration, in a first discussion, by the International Labour Conference at its 87th Session (1999).

47. ILO: Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, Report III (Part 4A), International Labour Conference, 83rd Session, 1996, paras. 58-59.

48. The coverage and financing of social protection: Tensions and main issues, Report of the Director-General to the Fifth European Regional Conference, Part II (Geneva), 1995.

49. GB.270/2, paras. 262-285.

50. GB.270/LILS/3(Rev.1), para. 56, appended to GB.270/9/2.

51. ILO: Social security and social protection: Equality of treatment between men and women, TMESSE/1994, prepared for the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Social Security and Social Protection: Equality of Treatment between Men and Women, Geneva, 21-25 November 1994, and report of the Meeting: TMESSE/1994/D.1, appended to GB.262/ESP/3.

52. United Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 993, I-14531.

53. ILO: Minimum Standards in Social Security, General Survey of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, International Labour Conference, 45th Session, 1961, Report III, Section III; ILO: The Ratification Outlook after Fifty Years, General Survey by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, International Labour Conference, 53rd Session, 1969, Report III, Section III; and ILO: Social Security Protection in Old-Age, General Survey of the reports relating to the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (No. 102), 1952, the Invalidity, Old Age and Survivors' Benefits Convention (No. 128), and Recommendation (No. 131), 1967, in so far as they apply to old-age benefits, International Labour Conference, 76th Session, 1989.

54. As at 31 Dec. 1997.

55. For a recent examination of Convention No. 102, see GB.270/LILS/WP/PRS/2, pp. 7-9, and GB.270/LILS/9/2, paras. 47-56.

56. International Labour Conference, 72nd Session, 1986, Report V, and Record of Proceedings, pp. 37/21-29.

57. The resolution and conclusions are appended to GB.267/ESP/3/2;

58. J. Gaude: L'insertion des jeunes et les politiques d'emploi-formation, Employment and Training Papers, No. 1, ILO, Geneva, 1997.

59. N. O'Higgins: The challenge of youth unemployment, Employment and Training Papers, No. 7, ILO, Geneva, 1997.

60. ILO: World Employment, 1996/97, Geneva, 1996. ILO: Jobs for Africa, Geneva, 1997.

61. R. Anker: "Theories of occupational segregation by sex: An overview," in International Labour Review, Vol. 136, No. 3, pp. 315ff., 1997. R. Anker: Gender and jobs: Sex segregation of occupations in the world, ILO, Geneva, 1998.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.