A regular review of the International Labour Organization and ILO-related activities and events taking place around the world.

ILO, Thailand review social security gap

Although the Thai government has successfully extended social security in the last decade, some 51 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, still lack social security coverage, according to a new survey carried out by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Thai government. The findings of the "Thailand Social Security Priority and Needs Survey" were discussed at the "Inter-Governmental Seminar on the Social Security Coverage Extension to the Non-Covered Population" in Bangkok on 7 December. The meeting looked at possible strategies for extending social security coverage, particularly to those in the informal economy.

For more information please contact Sophy Fisher, Regional Information Officer, ILO Bangkok, phone: +662/288-2482; email:

Labour Relations in Viet Nam

In December 2004, a National Conference on Labour Relations in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, brought together senior Vietnamese government officials, trade union and employer representatives to address policies and trends in industrial relations. The meeting assessed the current labour relations' situation in Viet Nam and discussed new roles and responsibilities of trade unions and employers in a socialist market economy. The Vietnamese Government is collaborating with the International Labour Office (ILO), under the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to improve industrial relations at the enterprise level, as well as building capacity of employers' and workers' associations.

For more information please contact Sophy Fisher, Regional Information Officer, ILO Bangkok, phone: +662/288-2482; email:

Safety and health in the construction sector

Standards of occupational safety and health on small construction sites were reviewed at an international workshop in Vientiane, Laos, from 16-17 December. More than 50 representatives from Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Thailand and Viet Nam attended the meeting. In 2003, an ILO survey of occupational safety and health conditions in small construction sites in these countries showed an urgent need to improve workers' safety and health, both at the national, policy-making level and in the workplace.

For more information please contact Sophy Fisher, Regional Information Officer, ILO Bangkok, phone: +662/288-2482; email:

GTZ, ILO, WHO enhance cooperation in the field of social protection

Building upon ongoing activities between the German development agency GTZ, the ILO, and the WHO in the field of social protection and social health insurance, the three organizations enhanced their cooperation by signing a Letter of Agreement in November 2004. GTZ, ILO and WHO agreed on joint technical cooperation activities that shall be defined by a common Working Group. The Working Group will also foster cooperation in the field at the country and regional level.

For more information, please contact the Social Protection Sector, phone: +4122/799-6960; fax: +4122/799-8316; email:

Guidelines for labour inspection in forestry

In most countries, the rates of accidents and occupational diseases are still high in the forestry sector. However, the experience of several countries and forest organizations shows that, through practical efforts, the standard of occupational safety and health can be improved considerably. Public labour inspection is one of the fundamental ways of enhancing safety and health and general working conditions in the forestry sector. To assist inspectors and others to implement appropriate practices in forestry management, a tripartite ILO meeting in Geneva on 24-28 January adopted guidelines for labour inspection in forestry. It is planned that the Guidelines will be widely disseminated by the ILO, and social dialogue activities encouraged and facilitated to put them into practice around the world.

For more information, please contact the ILO's Sectoral Activities Department at phone: +4122/799-6036; fax: +4122/799-7967; e-mail:

Promoting the ILO Declaration on Multinational Enterprises

This year, the ILO will organize three subregional tripartite symposia on labour and employment issues in multinational enterprises and foreign direct investment. The first symposium will be held in Pretoria on 25-26 January for the countries of the South African Development Community (SADC); the second symposium will take place in Jakarta on 11-12 April for the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries; and the third symposium will be held in Montevideo on 25-26 April, covering MERCOSUR countries. In addition to providing an opportunity to promote the ILO Declaration on Multinational Enterprises these seminars will help identify issues that might be tackled through subsequent technical cooperation activities.

For further information on the Employment Sector's activities, please contact phone: +4122/799-6853 or e-mail:

Seventh European Regional Meeting in Budapest Transformation and decent work in Europe

The Seventh European Regional Meeting in Budapest on 14-18 February also reviewed ILO activities in Europe and Central Asia since the Organization's last European Regional Meeting in Geneva in December 2000. Here are some examples of recent ILO programmes and projects in the region highlighted in the report to the meeting (Note 1):

Youth employment and social inclusion in Kosovo

The main objective of the programme that the ILO has been implementing in Kosovo since 2001, with the support of the Italian Government, is to promote the employability of disadvantaged youth. Emphasis is placed on breaking the cycle of discrimination, redressing gender inequalities and increasing the employability of persons with disabilities, low-skilled workers and former detainees. Programmes of a network of seven regional vocational training centres offer over 20 priority occupational profiles and include employability and technological skills, job search techniques and entrepreneurial skills. By mid-2004, over 2,300 jobseekers had been trained by the programme and 40,000 unemployed had received counselling and guidance.

Child trafficking in Albania, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine

A three-year project funded by the United States and Germany has been launched to develop an environment in which it is possible to prevent and eliminate internal and cross-border trafficking in children for sexual and labour exploitation. The project has three main components: bringing legislation and procedures into line with international commitments and ensuring that national policies address the special needs of the child victims of trafficking; in selected high-risk areas, promotion of youth employment and the long-term reintegration of child victims to reduce the vulnerability of children to trafficking; and the establishment of a regional information exchange network. The project is expected to provide services to 3,700 children and 80 adults and to indirectly benefit 50,000 people.

Improving market access for women entrepreneurs in Estonia

A project on more and better jobs for women adopted an integrated approach to the promotion of rural tourism and handicrafts. This involved activities to strengthen women's groups involved in rural tourism, build the capacity of local tourism authorities and develop links with existing networks of related businesses. Web site development was used as a key marketing strategy, study tours were organized and training was provided for the women entrepreneurs coming from marginalized groups in society. There is ample scope for the replication of these strategies elsewhere in Estonia and in other transition countries seeking to promote tourism as a strategy for rural regeneration.

Development of labour legislation in Ukraine

A United States funded project for the promotion of the ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work set up a dialogue between the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, employers' and workers' organizations and many other stakeholders focusing on labour legislation. The formulation of the new Labour Code which received its first reading in Parliament in 2003 received wide media coverage in the country. All of the principles promoted by the Declaration have been covered by the project. Its cornerstone was the development of the rights and institutions related to freedom of association. For many independent representative organizations, participation in the project was an important source of public recognition and helped in the emergence of civil society in Ukraine.

Promoting of women's entrepreneurship through employers' organizations in Georgia and Azerbaijan

With a view to assisting employers' organizations in Azerbaijan and Georgia improve the services they can offer their members, a project has been undertaken to help in the development of strategies and actions to address the needs of women entrepreneurs. Based on a rapid assessment of women's entrepreneurship in the two countries, two national workshops were held to identify best practices to support women entrepreneurs. As a result of the project, the Association of Women Entrepreneurs was established in Georgia, and the employers' organization in Azerbaijan is establishing a standing gender committee and an information centre. A final conference to exchange experience on best practices for the provision of stable and long-term support for women entrepreneurs was held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2004.

Promoting workers' rights through schools in Romania

As part of a German-funded project to promote the ILO Declaration, the trade unions in Romania have developed educational components for inclusion in secondary school curricula covering fundamental principles and rights at work, the role of the social partners and the meaning of social dialogue in a democratic society. The project is part of a long-term strategy by Romanian trade unions to attract young people to the union movement through a better understanding of workers' rights and the values of solidarity.

Health care systems in Eastern Europe

A review undertaken by the ILO of health care services in the countries of Eastern Europe shows that, despite the continued dedication of many health care personnel, the years of transition and cuts in public expenditure have taken their toll on state health services, creating a crisis in health care which has contributed to the fall in life expectancy in countries such as the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The impact of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis has been worsened by the condition of public health services. Health care workers in many countries suffer from low pay, the need to work unpaid overtime and employment insecurity in view of the uncertainty as to future plans for the restructuring of the sector. Moreover, there is very little involvement of the social partners in the discussion of reform measures. The findings of the review are set out in a publication by the ILO and Public Services International (PSI) entitled Corrosive reform: Failing health systems in Eastern Europe which contains policy recommendations for the improvement of the situation.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work

One of the initiatives taken by the ILO to raise awareness of the massive impact of work-related accidents and diseases throughout the world has been to declare 28 April, a day long associated by trade unions with the commemoration of victims of occupational accidents and diseases, as World Day for Safety and Health at Work. The ILO first commemorated the World Day in 2003. In both 2003 and 2004, a variety of events were organized on 28 April on the theme of safety and health at work by a long list of countries in Europe and Central Asia. These ranged from tripartite discussions and meetings to radio and television broadcasts, the launching of awareness raising campaigns and ILO publications, the laying of wreaths and, in certain cases, the observance of one minute of silence for victims.

Note 1 - Report of the Director-General to the Seventh European Regional Meeting, vol 1: ILO activities 2001-2004, Cooperation in a changing environment, Budapest, February 2005.