International Labour Standards on Employment policy

For most people, the key to escaping poverty means having a job. Recognizing that developing labour standards without addressing employment would be senseless, the ILO dedicates a large part of its programme to creating greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income. To reach this goal, it promotes international standards on employment policy which, together with technical cooperation programmes, are aimed at achieving full, productive and freely chosen employment. No single policy can be prescribed to attain this objective. Every country, whether developing, developed, or in transition, needs to devise its own policies to bring about full employment. ILO standards on employment policy provide tools for designing and implementing such policies, thereby ensuring maximum access to jobs needed to enjoy decent work.

Selected relevant ILO instruments

  • Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122) - [ratifications]
    This priority convention requires ratifying states to declare and pursue an active policy designed to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment. Such a policy shall aim to ensure that there is work for all who are available for and are seeking work; that such work is as productive as possible; and that there is freedom of choice of employment and the fullest possible opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his or her skills and endowments in, a job for which he or she is well suited, irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. This policy shall take due account of the stage and level of economic development and the mutual relationships between employment objectives and other economic and social objectives, and shall be pursued by methods that are appropriate to national conditions and practices. The convention also requires member states to take measures to apply an employment policy and to consult workers' and employers' representatives.
  • Further relevant instruments

Page on the General Survey concerning employment instruments in light of the 2008 Declarat
ion on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2010)

Global Employment Agenda

In 2003 the ILO's Governing Body adopted the Global Employment Agenda, which sets forth ten core elements for developing a global strategy to boost employment. These include such economic strategies as promoting trade and investment for productive employment and market access for developing countries, sustainable development for sustainable livelihoods, and policy integration on macroeconomic policy. Other core elements comprise strategies supported by international labour standards, such as the promotion of cooperatives and small and medium enterprises, training and education, social protection and occupational safety and health, and equality and collective bargaining. The Global Employment Agenda recognizes that "fundamental rights, such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, freedom from discrimination or freedom from forced labour or child labour, are of moral worth, but lead also to more productive job matches and higher productivity in the aggregate; social protection responds to people's need for security, but in doing so can improve labour market functioning in the aggregate; social dialogue expresses workers' and employers' right to freedom of association and participation in decision-making though collective bargaining, but can also find more durable solutions to problems, increase commitment and transparency, and speed adjustment to change." (Note 1)

Further information

  • Guide on employment policy and international labour standards (2014) – [PDF]
  • Guide for the formulation of national employment policies (2012) – [PDF]
  • Rights at work in times of crisis: Trends at the country level in terms of compliance with international labour standards (2011) – [PDF]
  • General Survey concerning employment instruments in light of the 2008 Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2010) – [PDF]
  • General Survey on Employment Policy (2004) - [PDF]
  • ILO Employment Sector

Note 1 - ILO: Global Employment Agenda (Geneva, 2003), p. 5.