The continuing pandemic is causing increases in poverty, inequality and vulnerability of workers around the world. All people around the world have the right to work in a way that is fair, safe, at-will, and where they can come together and bargain collectively according to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Unfortunately, with the latest estimates showing child labour on the rise, we know that many workers and children are working in situations that put their safety, health, development or future at risk. How can we support decent work?
Collaboration is necessary to promote economic growth in a way that helps ensure equity, social progress and to eradicate poverty. When this is done between governments, who set national standards, employers, who provide jobs, and workers, who help ensure that jobs get done, it is called Social Dialogue.
What is Social Dialogue?
Social dialogue refers to all forms of exchange of information, including negotiations and consultations, between the government, workers, and employers on topics relating to workplace policies, conditions, wages and so on. The result of these consultations can result in a fair remuneration, safer working conditions, social protection, equal opportunities for men and women, and a space where employees can freely express their opinions on professional decisions which can impact them. These workplace conditions constitute what we refer to as decent work.
How does social dialogue work?
Social dialogue may exist as a formal or informal engagement and can take place at local, national, regional or international level. When it involves all three parties, workers, employers’ and the government, we use the term tripartite. Tripartite social dialogue means that the results of the consultations can contribute to creating decent work opportunities at a national level, creating long-lasting improved working conditions. Through the process of collective bargaining, meaning negotiations between trade unions, employers and the government, better working conditions such as fairer wages, better working time, trainings, and occupational health and safety for example, help create far more decent work opportunities, which itself contributes to the fight against child labour.
How does access to decent work contribute to the fight against child labour?
Poor access to decent work can be a driver of child labour in two ways. Firstly, when parents and caregivers do not earn a fair wage, if they are working long hours and not earning enough to feed their family or send their children to school, they can have no choice but to send their children to work to supplement family income. Secondly, for children above the minimum legal working age, who cannot lack of access to decent work often end up working in dangerous conditions. Although these children may be above the minimum working age, if the work is hazardous, this is also considered as child labour, and is one of its worst forms.
When families can access work which is rewarding, productive, provides social protection and has adequate working conditions they are more likely to be in a position where they can send their children to school rather than to involve them in dangerous work. And for young people and adolscent who can legally work, accessing decent work opportunities keeps them away from tasks which can be detrimental to their health and well-being, and on brighter career path.
Social dialogue supports decent work and fights child labour
“Employers’ and workers’ organizations have been the historic pioneers in promoting international labour standards, including those on the prohibition of child labour.”
Employers’ and workers’ organisations, when working together, have the potential to drastically eradicate child labour in their supply chains in the long run. By working together, they can identify areas at risk and influence those who hire children, often in the informal sector, family farms, and small enterprises. These organisations can also play a role in collecting data, allowing us to establish whether or not progress is being made, successes in child labour fighting policies and where gaps may still remain.
When social dialogue takes place, and trade unions can take part in collective bargaining, more decent work opportunities are created meaning employers and employees are far less likely to have to resort to child labour to improve productivity or supplement household income.