ILO seeks new protective economic paradigms, opposes deregulation

THE world must seek to protect the economically weak people and attempt must not be to  prioritize economic gains at the expense of the general goods of the people, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.

The global labour watch body observed that prior to the economic shock which began in 2008, the capacity of labour market regulation to respond to the demands of twenty-first century working life was in doubt. In the aftermath of the crisis, which persists in one form or another in a number of countries, it has become clear that new models are urgently needed.
It further noted that crisis has triggered and magnified changes in working life that pose profound challenges to policy-makers around the world: spiralling unemployment, in particular among young people; growth of highly insecure work; an increase in the working poor; the destructive effects of inequality; and enduring and burgeoning informality, often in very low-quality jobs.

The trends have meant that the true experience of many in the labour force differs from the employment models assumed by regulatory frameworks. Moreover, austerity policies demand that labour protections be dismantled without recognizing the social and economic benefits of these frameworks.

At the 2015 regulating for decent work conference held in Geneva, Switzerland recently, brought experts from across the world to debate the future of labour regulation in the wake of the crisis.

Questions at the frontline of global debates on the future of work, including inequality, insecurity and the impact of austerity policies, were explored at the Conference. The participants – more than 300 researchers and policy-makers from all regions – agreed that labour regulation, in conjunction with sound macroeconomic, trade and investment policies, is crucial to delivering decent work.

The experts submitted that rather than espounding and promoting deregulation as a way out of economic meltdown, what is needed are robust regulatory frameworks coupled with meaningful implementation and enforcement mechanisms. The focus should be on identifying the most effective forms of regulation, which protect all workers yet accommodate, as necessary, the particular needs of traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women, migrants and young workers.

The research projects showcased at the Conference confirm that labour regulation is vital. However, they also suggest that regulatory regimes should be reformed to merge traditional forms of regulation with innovative mechanisms.

Methods discussed, for example, included those that ensure income security for vulnerable segments of the population; promote new ways of organizing, including in informal work; extend labour rights across global value chains; and effectively integrate labour market regulation into development strategies.

A key challenge for modern labour regulation, confirmed by the Conference debates, is the global significance of Unacceptable Forms of Work (UFW), defined by the ILO as “work performed in conditions that deny fundamental principles and rights at work, put at risk the lives, health, freedom, human dignity and security of workers or keep households in conditions of extreme poverty.”

Among the central problems in tackling UFW, however, is that many of its forms are beyond the reach of the traditional regulatory toolkit. Legal and enforcement mechanisms that can extend labour rights to unprotected groups are therefore needed. These institutions must couple conventional regulation with innovative and targeted mechanisms that offer the kinds of protections needed by neglected workers.

Yet the methods that can realize these goals are yet to be determined. Experimentation is needed to design and test innovative forms of regulation in local contexts, research their effects, and make adjustments as needed.

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