International Labour Organization Conventions

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency, which is tripartite in nature, that is, it includes the three major stakeholders– governments, employers, and workers. It includes 187 countries as members of the Organization, with the primary objective to set labour standards, develop policies, devise programs promoting decent work for all, enhancement of social protection, and the strengthening of dialogue on labour-related issues.

The ILO comprises of 189 Conventions, in addition to several protocols, declarations, and recommendations. The overall framework of the ILO broadly addresses concerns with regard to the protection of rights of worker, including child labour, forced labour, discrimination and collective bargaining.

The Governing Body of the International Labour Office has identified eight Conventions as fundamental to the rights of human beings at work. These ILO Conventions are at times referred to as the core labour standards:

  • Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
  • Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention,1949 (No. 98)
  • Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
  • Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)
  • Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)
  • Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

The above mentioned Conventions are based on certain principles, which form the cornerstone of effective human rights protection framework for workers.

  • Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining: The key legal instruments under ILO labour standards governing the three core rights– that is, freedom of assoBottom of Formciation, the right to organize, and the effective recognition of the right to bargain collectively– are Conventions No. 87 and No. 98, and the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

 (b) The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour: Convention 29 on forced labour and Convention 105 on the abolition of forced labour are two central legislations under the ILO on the issue of forced labour. The right to freedom from forced or compulsory labour is also an absolute right and Convention 29 provides its definition– “it shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” In ascertaining conditions of forced labour, certain indicators may provide clarity, such as, restrictions on workers’ freedom of movement, withholding of wages or identity documents, physical or sexual violence, threats, and intimidation or fraudulent debt from which workers cannot escape.

(c) The effective abolition of child labour: Employing children not only hampers their health and physical wellbeing, but also exposes them to psychological damage. To prohibit the economic, social, mental and physical exploitation of children, the ILO includes two major Conventions on child labour—Convention 138 on Minimum Age and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, along with Recommendations 146 and 190, respectively.

(d) The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation apart from other issues: Discrimination at work includes any distinction, exclusion, or preference, which adversely affects equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation. Discrimination at work can be on the grounds of sex, race, religion, descent, social origin, physical appearance, political opinion, and disability. Legal protection from discrimination on employment and at workplace are provided under three ILO Conventions, two of which are considered as core conventions—Convention 100 on equal remuneration, Convention 111 on discrimination in employment and occupation, and Convention 156 for workers with family responsibilities.

Apart from the above mentioned eight core Conventions, the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) is another comprehensive legal instruments, which collectively provides for protection and promotion of rights in the abovementioned four categories– freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

More information and details on ILO’s fundamental Conventions can be found here:–en/index.htm