Focus

Focus Archive

Decent work for all

May 2007

"The primary goal of the International Labour Office (ILO) today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity." Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General

Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives - their aspirations for opportunity and income; rights, voice and recognition; family stability and personal development; and fairness and gender equality. Ultimately these various dimensions of decent work underpin peace in communities and society. Decent work reflects the concerns of governments, workers and employers, who together provide the ILO with its unique tripartite identity.

Decent work is captured in four strategic objectives: fundamental principles and rights at work and international labour standards; employment and income opportunities; social protection and social security; and social dialogue and tripartism. These objectives hold for all workers, women and men, in both formal and informal economies; in wage employment or working on their own account; in the fields, factories and offices; in their home or in the community.

Decent work is central to efforts to reduce poverty, and is a means for achieving equitable, inclusive and sustainable development. The ILO works to develop Decent Work-oriented approaches to economic and social policy in partnership with the principal institutions and actors of the multilateral system and the global economy.

Progress requires action at the global level. The ILO is developing an agenda for the community of work, represented by its tripartite constituents, to mobilize their considerable resources to create those opportunities and to help reduce and eradicate poverty. The Decent Work Agenda offers a basis for a more just and stable framework for global development.

The ILO provides support through integrated decent work country programmes developed in coordination with ILO constituents. They define the priorities and targets within national development frameworks and aim to tackle major decent work deficits through efficient programmes that embrace each of the strategic objectives.

Africa's Decent Work agenda

Faced with a continental challenge of growth that is failing to create enough better quality jobs to stop rising unemployment and an increasing number of people living in poverty, top worker, employer and government representatives of the ILO's African member States have adopted a sweeping new Decent Work Agenda in Africa 2007-15 (PDF) designed to stimulate the creation of millions of decent jobs and improve the lives of the Continent's working poor.

"The Agenda is an excellent combination of policy directions and tools for implementation", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in closing remarks to the International Labour Organization's XIth African Regional Meeting. "The targets we adopted are ambitious but achievable. This is Africa deciding where it wants to go and how to get there. It is based on partnership and dialogue between Africa's employers, workers and governments and with our counterpart agencies in the multilateral system."

The new initiative, called "Decent Work Agenda in Africa 2007-15" was adopted following four days of intense discussion by some 500 delegates at the ILO meeting who heard urgent calls for development from three heads of State and Government. The Agenda commits the ILO's tripartite constituency to the development of Decent Work Country Programmes as the mechanism for mainstreaming policies for more and better jobs into national development strategies.

Among its key objectives is an agreement to forge strong new links between the ILO and its African member States as well as international organizations such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote employment-intensive growth.


All countries need to look at their own workplace practices and check that there is decent work for all. Editor