Workers’ rights and the right to decent work

Full employment and decent work are an integral part of the UN sustainability agenda. Norway will help to ensure decent work and promote fundamental, universal workers’ rights, job creation and employment, social protection and tripartite dialogue. Decent work is a fundamental goal in itself, but also a key prerequisite for sustainable development.

Norway attaches great importance to promoting and protecting fundamental, universal workers’ rights, particularly through the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO is the UN specialised agency for labour issues, and is responsible for developing, monitoring and enforcing international labour standards. The agency also has a particular responsibility for helping member states to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 8, to promote ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.’ 

Norway attaches great importance to strengthening the ILO’s efforts to boost employment and job creation. There is a huge need for more and better jobs, especially in light of increasing youth unemployment. The ILO estimates that 530 million new jobs will be needed worldwide in the period up to 2030 in order to address global unemployment and keep up with demographic developments. Additional challenges arise from the fact that more than 3 billion people are working in conditions that do not safeguard their financial and social welfare, and some 40 million people are victims of modern slavery.

A report by the Global Commission on the Future of Work, which was established in connection with the celebration of the ILO centenary in 2019, points out that the world of work is changing significantly throughout the world, and that all countries, sectors and workers are affected by globalisation and by technological and environmental change. In order to avoid increased inequality, insecurity and exclusion, the Commission calls for a human-centred approach to the future of work.

ILO conventions and recommendations establish labour standards. The eight fundamental conventions set out a minimum of workplace rights that are to be respected, in four main categories: freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination.

All member states are obliged to respect and protect these rights, regardless of whether they have ratified the conventions. The main responsibility for implementing and regulating decent work lies with the authorities in the country concerned. At the same time, all employers have an independent responsibility for respecting workers’ rights.

Efforts to ensure decent work are closely linked to efforts to ensure responsible business conduct. Both the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises refer to ILO’s fundamental conventions and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In 2017, the ILO International Labour Conference adopted a separate declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. Complaints regarding non-observance of these principles can be submitted to the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Norway will work actively to ensure that the ILO gives priority to education and vocational training, especially for girls. Norway has also joined Alliance 8.7, a global platform for cooperation under the leadership of the ILO that is working to achieve target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals: eradicating forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour in all its forms.

Decent work is also a priority in our European Economic Agreement cooperation and development cooperation. Norwegian employer and employee organisations receive support for cooperation with sister organisations in developing countries. The Norwegian authorities also provide support for civil society organisations in other countries that promote workers’ rights and decent work.

Norway’s priorities:

  • protect and promote workers’ rights internationally, and contribute to greater coherence at the international level in the approach to decent work, including in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • advocate that the ILO gives priority to its core areas and works to safeguard fundamental rights; and
  • seek to ensure that the ILO and other international organisations redouble their efforts to create jobs and increase employment, and to combat modern slavery.

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