EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.

The ILO Constitution was prepared by a Labour Commission chaired by Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labour (AFL), and composed of representatives from Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. As a result of its work, the ILO was established in Geneva as a tripartite organisation tasked with promoting social dialogue with representatives of social partners and governments in the framework of its executive bodies.

The only tripartite UN agency,  the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member states, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

The ILO's Decent Work agenda aims to promote the improvement of economic and working conditions of workers in an environment of lasting peace, prosperity and progress. It focuses on four strategic objectives:

  • set and promote standards and fundamental principles and rights at work
  • create greater opportunities for women and men to have decent employment and income
  • enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all
  • strengthen tripartism and social dialogue

The ILO working structure includes three main bodies:

Tripartite committees representing major sectors contribute to the activities of the Governing Body and Office. Support is also provided by experts' committees on relevant topics such as vocational training, management development, occupational safety and health, industrial relations and workers’ education, as well as issues relevant to women and young workers.

The ILO ensures that labour standards are implemented by the signatory countries and also advises on improvements in their application.

Cooperation between the ILO and the EU started in 1958, with the ILO Office for the EU and Benelux Countries. The EU contribution was instrumental in the context of the the June 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization , during the adoption of the Consolidated Maritime Convention in February 2006 and during the adoption of the Global Jobs Pact in 2009.

Current ILO activities comprise about 600 programmes and projects in over 100 countries, supported by 120 development partners. With its extensive statistical resources, the ILO is a major source of information, analysis and guidance on work-related topics.

See also: Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers; Council of Europe; International labour standards.


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