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 families, 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.

Promoting Decent work for all

Work is central to people's well-being. In addition to providing income, work can pave the way for broader social and economic advancement, strengthening individuals, their families and communities. Such progress, however, hinges on work that is decent. Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives.

The ILO has developed an agenda for the community of work. It provides support through integrated Decent Work Country Programmes developed in coordination with its constituents. Putting the Decent Work Agenda into practice is achieved through the implementation of the ILO's four strategic objectives, with gender equality as a crosscutting objective:
  • Promoting jobs – an economy that generates opportunities for investment, entrepreneurship, skills development, job creation and sustainable livelihoods.
  • Guaranteeing rights at work – to obtain recognition and respect for the rights of workers. All workers, and in particular disadvantaged or poor workers, need representation, participation, and laws that work for their interests.
  • Extending social protection – to promote both inclusion and productivity by ensuring that women and men enjoy working conditions that are safe, allow adequate free time and rest, take into account family and social values, provide for adequate compensation in case of lost or reduced income and permit access to adequate healthcare.
  • Promoting social dialogue – Involving strong and independent workers’ and employers' organizations is central to increasing productivity, avoiding disputes at work, and building cohesive societies.

An ILO concept, an international consensus

The Decent Work concept was formulated by the ILO’s constituents – governments and employers and workers – as a means to identify the Organization’s major priorities. It is based on the understanding that work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community, democracies that deliver for people, and economic growth that expands opportunities for productive jobs and enterprise development.Decent Work reflects priorities on the social, economic and political agenda of countries and the international system. In a relatively short time this concept has forged an international consensus among governments, employers, workers and civil society that productive employment and Decent Work are key elements to achieving a fair globalization, reducing poverty and achieving equitable, inclusive, and sustainable development.

Making Decent Work a global goal and a national reality

The overall goal of Decent Work is to effect positive change in people’s lives at the national and local levels. The ILO provides support through integrated Decent Work Country Programmes developed in coordination with ILO constituents. They define the priorities and the targets within national development frameworks and aim to tackle major Decent Work deficits through efficient programmes that embrace each of the strategic objectives.

The ILO operates with other partners within and beyond the UN family to provide in-depth expertise and key policy instruments for the design and implementation of these programmes. It also provides support for building the institutions needed to carry them forward and for measuring progress. The balance within these programmes differs from country to country, reflecting their needs, resources and priorities.

Progress also requires action at the global level. The Decent Work agenda offers a basis for a more just and sustainable framework for global development. The ILO works to develop “decent work”-oriented approaches to economic and social policy in partnership with the principal institutions and actors of the multilateral system and the global economy.