Decent work

Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for all, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

The ILO's Decent Work Agenda

Productive employment and decent work are key elements to achieving a fair globalization and poverty reduction. The ILO has developed an agenda for the community of work looking at job creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue, with gender equality as a crosscutting objective.

There has been an increased urgency among international policy-makers, particularly in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, to deliver quality jobs along with social protection and respect for rights at work to achieve sustainable, inclusive economic growth, and eliminate poverty.

Decent work and the Sustainable Development Goals

During the UN General Assembly in September 2015, decent work and the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda – employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue – became integral elements of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 8 of the 2030 Agenda calls for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work, and will be a key area of engagement for the ILO and its constituents. Furthermore, key aspects of decent work are widely embedded in the targets of many of the other 16 goals of the UN’s new development vision.

Leaders’ statements and action plans of the G20, G7, EU, African Union and other multilateral and regional bodies also confirm the significance of decent work to crisis recovery and sustainable development.

Highlights of the ILO's work

  1. Better Work

    Better Work – an ILO/IFC programme set up in 2009 – has improved conditions in factories employing more than 3 million workers by engaging with more than 60 global garment brands and 1,500 factories

  2. Child labour

    Over the past decade, and with ILO assistance, more than 60 countries implementing almost 200 laws have adapted their legal frameworks to conform to the ILO’s child labour Conventions. Since 2004, in its regular review of the application of Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, the ILO’s Committee of Experts has seen a seven-fold increase in the number of comments noting progress.

  3. Employment intensive investment

    Employment-intensive investments link infrastructure development with employment creation, poverty reduction and local economic and social development.

  4. Safety + Health for All

    The Programme aims to improve the safety and health of workers worldwide, giving priority to low and middle-income countries, high-risk sectors, recurrent and new OSH challenges, and workers in vulnerable conditions. Since 2016, 138 million workers in 19 participating countries have benefitted directly or indirectly from Programme interventions. 

  5. Social protection

    The ILO works with countries to extend social protection in two ways: by pushing for the rapid implementation of national social protection floors of basic social security guarantees that ensure universal access to essential health care and income security while also improving existing social protection schemes to provide higher levels of benefits, progressively, to as many people as possible.