Workers' and Employers' Organizations in South Asia

Workers at a campaign rally for the ratification of Convention 87 and Convention 98 in Bihar, India. ©ILO

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Sound industrial relations remain a common and formidable challenge for both workers’ and employers’ organizations in India and throughout South Asia. Inadequate job creation, particularly of decent work, and the uneven distribution of the benefits of economic growth are key challenges. Social dialogue between the constituents underpins the ILO’s work, and the ILO helps to develop the capacity of these organizations so they can effectively support and represent their members.

Workers’ Organizations

The trade unions in India are involved in the implementation of programmes and projects both at the national and state levels, on a wide range of labour-related issues. They promote and protect the interest of workers in both the formal and informal economy. In India, 12 major unions are recognized as central trade union organizations and operate in many states: Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS); Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC); All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC); Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS); Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU); All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) – formerly UTUC (LS); Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC); Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA); All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU); Labour Progressive Federation (LPF); United Trade Union Congress (UTUC); and National Front of Indian Trade Unions – Dhanbad (NFITU-DHN). HMS, INTUC and SEWA are members of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). AITUC is a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

The unions in India face major challenges, including the growth of informal employment and contract workers, promoting the right to organize and bargain collectively, protection of migrant workers (both inter-state and international migrants), gender equality, lack of social security, and workers’ safety and security. The ILO works with the unions in a number of areas to strengthen their capacity.

Employers’ Organizations

In India, there are a number of well-established employers’ organizations, which represent the collective voices of private and government-owned enterprises, including small, medium and large businesses. They interact with the central and state governments and workers’ organizations to protect and promote the interests of employers. The Council of Indian Employers is the umbrella organization of three employers’ bodies: the All India Organization of Employers (AIOE), Employers' Federation of India (EFI) and Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE). The Council of Indian Employers is the ILO constituent employers’ organization and is affiliated to the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).

Among the key challenges being faced by employers’ organizations in India and across South Asia are: a) remaining relevant and sensitive to the needs of its members, in an increasingly competitive and constantly changing economic scenario; b) promoting innovation and higher productivity, which are key determinants of enterprise sustainability; and c) strengthening industrial relations and promotion of bipartite and tripartite dialogue.

Key resources

  1. ACT/EMP Women in business and management: Gaining momentum in Asia and the Pacific

    3 July 2015

    The report brings together data collected from the ILO global company survey in 2013 on gender diversity in the workplace, specific to the Asia-Pacific region, and also incorporates other latest data to provide overview of the status of women in business and management.

  2. ACT/EMP Research Note on Trade Agreement and Labour Issues

    This research note provides a brief overview of the current debates on social and labour components in trade agreements in Asia and the Pacific, with particular reference to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

  3. ACTRAV INFO: December 2015

    ACTRAV INFO: A monthly newsletter produced by the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)

  4. Productivity improvement and the role of trade unions – Manual

    A manual aimed to facilitate the exchange of ideas amongst trade unionists on the role of workers’ organization on productivity improvement and its implications on international labour standards, employment creation, improving wages and enhancing collective bargaining.