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December 21, 2023

Role Of International Labour Organization In Development Of Labour Law

“In 2019, The International Labour Organization Celebrated Its 100th Anniversary”

International Labour Organization (“ILO”) was founded for social justice and development of international human and labour rights in 1919 as a part of Treaty of Versailles. ILO created in middle of the war, is always defended the principle that just social justice can prevent universal and lasting peace. Respect of human rights, satisfactory living conditions, employment opportunities and economic security are essential elements of social justice and especially decent work conditions are one of the most important basic goals of social justice and ILO. It is not just about obey to human rights and also creating more and better employment opportunities, respecting and legally protecting worker’s rights, building and expending social security systems’ promoting the social dialogue between employers and trade unions (1).

ILO’s main strategic objectives

ILO has four fundamental strategic goals;

  1. Develop and realize fundamental principles, rights and standards of working life,
  2. Creating more opportunities in order to have decent jobs for men and women,
  3. Improve of effectiveness of social protection programs,
  4. Strengthen tripartite bodies and social dialogue (2).

For implement to objectives, ILO has different ways such as making constitution, conferences, declarations, conventions and recommendations; raising international politics and programs for develop human rights, enhance to working and living conditions, making employment opportunities, creating international working standard and mechanism for monitoring and implementation mentioned standard that can be guide to international authorities, making comprehensive technical cooperation programs with active partnership of parties for helping to enforce the policies that ILO made by counties; education, training, research and publication activities must be made for improve all of these efforts.

Labour Commission which sets up Peace Conference, drafted the constitution

Labour Commission which sets up Peace Conference, drafted The Constitution between January and April, 1919. The Constitution includes security, humanitarian, political and economic considerations.

“Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;

And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperiled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required; as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures;

Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries;

The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, and with a view to attaining the objectives set forth in this Preamble, agree to the following Constitution of the International Labour Organization.”(3)

As addressed, ILO’s constitutional preamble has emphasized crucial standards for work-life and important guidance for international authorities.

ILO’s aims and purposes that described at ILO preamble

ILO’s aims and purposes that described at ILO preamble, were reasserted and strengthened in new declaration known as “The Declaration of Philadelphia” adopted on May 19, 1949.

“Labour is not a commodity; freedom of expression and association are essential to sustained progress; poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity anywhere; all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”(4)

ILO’s world programs indicated as “solemn obligation” recognized at The Declaration of Philadelphia. For the aim of “solemn obligation”, some achievements should be done in the first place such as;

  • Full employment and the raising of standards of living;
  • Employment of workers in the occupations for which they are best suited and where they can make their greatest contribution to the common well-being;
  • Facilities for training and the transfer of labor, including migration for employment and settlement;
  • Policies in regard to wages and earnings, hours, and other conditions of work calculated to ensure a just share of the fruits of progress to all and a minimum living wage to all employed and in need of such protection;
  • Effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining, the cooperation of management and labor in the continuous improvement of productive efficiency, and the collaboration of workers and employers in the preparation and application of social and economic measures;
  • Extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care; adequate protection for the life and health of workers in all occupations;
  • Child welfare and maternity protection;
  • Adequate nutrition, housing, and facilities for recreation and culture; and assurance of equality of educational and vocational opportunity (5)

Preamble and The Philadelphia Declaration have similar purposes and both of them deeply emphasized that work-life and its standards are not at the desired level.

ILO has adopted The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Right at Work

ILO has adopted The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Right at Work at the 86th International Labour Conference, 1998. This Conference and Declaration has revealed to respect, promote and realize in good faith of freedom of association that belongs to employee and employer’s society and effective collective bargaining rights.

Moreover, conference promised member countries to make effort for eliminating forced or compulsory labor, effectively prohibition of child labor, elimination of discrimination in employment and vocational levels. This Declaration indicates that member states obliged to comply with basic principles of the Declaration, even if they have not sign relevant agreements. With this Declaration and its binding obligations, obeying fundamental employment rights, anti-discrimination principles in employment and prohibition of child labor became mandatory in order to create standards and maintain development of labour law for every member state.

Addition to declarations and conferences, ILO can impact on authorities by more influential methods such as conventions and recommendations. Conferences can only adopt conventions and recommendations after preparation by office and governing body of ILO. Then these are brought to attention to member state by their representatives.

Conventions are not binding for countries unless ratified by them. However, if ILO convention is secured by two-thirds of the majority in the ILO conference, member country shall be bound with that convention. Recommendations are non-binding guidelines about technical subjects and details.

According to all mentioned above, it is important to consider that member states which have not ratified conventions may still alter their law or practice in response to the principles established by the ILO (7).

Furthermore, ILO has monitoring mechanism to evaluate and promote the convenience of the member states to convensions, conferences, standards etc. ILO’s regular reporting structure, each member nation must regularly report the extent to which its national law is consistent with ILO conventions and recommendations. These reports are first evaluated by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (6). Result of mentioned statement, ILO could monitor the member state, if they implement new published standards by introducing new laws, instantaneously. Committee on Freedom of Association as one of the governing body of ILO reviews all complaints against member state which violates fundamental rights of freedom of association.

According to ILO’s perspective, international labour standards are aimed at promoting decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and dignity (7); thus, these standards are for creating fundamental principles and rights of labours. Some of them has priority that result from their simplicity such as right to organize, right to collective bargaining, abolition of child labour, equal remuneration of women and men for work of equal value, elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Some of these rights are mandatory; therefore, member states should obey and practice them even though they’re not ratified. Still, ILO is always encouraging member states to ratify, implement and improve to international labour standarts which have grown into a comprehensive system of instruments on work and social policy, backed by a supervisory system designed to address all sorts of problems in their application at the national level (8).


Consequently, constitution, declarations, conferences, conventions and recommendations are focusing on built and develop new and better international labour standards; protect propagate human and labour rights, eliminate discrimination and child labour. In order to achieve these goals, raise awareness and to create bridges between states, employers and employees, ILO has crucial and unquestionable place owing to its power on member states.


(1) Sengenberger, W., The International Labour Organization, p.19 

(2) Sayın, A.K., ILO Normlarının ve Örgütün Denetim Mekanizmasının Türk İş Hukukuna Etkisi

(3) ILO Constitution

(4) – (5) The Declaration of Philadelphia


(7) Sengenberger, W., The International Labour Organization, p.27 

 (8) ILO Labour Standarts–en/index.htm


Sena Arslan

Sena Arslan