June 22, 2021
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Challenges of Decent Work

Challenges of Decent Work

Challenges That Might Be Encountered In The Adoption Of The Decent Work Concept

A commitment by a country to the adoption of the concept of decent work would necessitate that a number of mechanisms, policies and programmes be formulated (and/or updated) in order to facilitate the full acceptance of the decent work concept, along with the institutional strengthening of some key public sector entities.  Some actions that would need to be taken are now outlined below:


The passing of laws to ensure the well being of the workforce and the protection of that workforce from exploitation is one of the major factors to be addressed in embracing decent work. For instance, the implementation of safety and health legislation to protect a country’s workforce would be critical, along with legislation to protect the rights of both the employee and the employer. Minimum wage legislation to assist workers in attaining a basic standard of living would also be of extreme benefit.


One of the primary pre-conditions for the widespread embracing of the decent work concept is the need to provide accurate and timely information to objectively assess any progress being made towards the attainment of the goal.  Information needs in themselves are diverse and could include:

(i) Continuous labour costs and wage surveys, to monitor wage and salary levels, their movements over time and to ascertain whether such changes are in line with changes in productivity levels.  This information would also facilitate comparison to any established minimum wage levels;

(ii) An updated informal sector survey, to obtain an estimate of the numbers of persons working in the informal sector, the physical working conditions with which they are faced and the areas of economic activity in which they are involved;

(iii) The establishment of an updated poverty line to ascertain the number of persons that are living below some minimally acceptable economic level;

(iv) If decent work is to be adopted as a goal to be achieved, it would be extremely advantageous to establish a “decent work statistical database.”  Such a database would satisfy the need for tangible performance indicators to measure the success (or failure) in achieving the various decent work principles. Some information requirements that could be deemed as critical include:


  • number of workers covered by collective bargaining arrangements as a percentage of total employed labour force
  • number of union members found in each Trade Union
  • employment injuries by economic sector
  • number of strikes, disputes, industrial accidents and fatalities by economic sector
  • number of self-employed persons contributing to the social security scheme
  • number of entities contributing to the social security scheme
  • number of workers contributing into the social security scheme by public or private sector
  • general labour force statistics, inclusive of the unemployment and participation rates, by gender and age group
  • number of new registered businesses by (i) business area and (ii) number of employees hired
  • number of registered participants in established entrepreneurial schemes by gender, age and area of economic activity
  • occupational and training needs by industrial sector
  • estimates of numbers living below the poverty line
  • wages and labour cost indices
  • monthly number of layoffs by economic sector and occupation



Vulnerable groups of workers include workers with disabilities and migrant workers.  In the case of the former, training policies aimed at increasing the employability of this vulnerable group must be promoted in tandem withawareness campaigns aimed at employers.  Such campaigns should be designed to encourage employers to bring disabled persons into their organisations.


It must be recognised that the interests of disabled persons go well beyond ensuring that they have ready access to public buildings and parking spaces.  They must be provided with the opportunity to access training and education programmes, so that they are empowered to make a living for themselves in the changing international environment. Where necessary, employers must be prepared to physically re-configure their workplaces, to ensure that the requirements of the disabled worker are provided in order for them to function effectively.


Migrant workers also need to be provided with every opportunity to benefit from the decent work concept.  Migration itself is an occurrence that if properly managed, can result in positive synergies. In general, a country can benefit from increased numbers of non-national workers through (i) the supply of labour to address any shortages occurring in its labour market and (ii) the taxes and contributions towards the social security system that documented migrant workers provide. However, it is acknowledged that for many migrants, the work experience has been anything but positive.  Some are faced with overt discrimination, both at the workplace and as they go about their daily lives. Many are exposed to dangerous working conditions and receive insufficient levels of remuneration from unscrupulous employers, who show little respect for their well being and basic human rights. To address these concerns, migrant worker policies must be formulated, promoted and disseminated to the general public, to facilitate an awareness of their unique challenges. It should have the dual intention of protecting the basic human and social rights of migrant workers, as well as their work-related interests as they seek to integrate into the host country’s labour market.



It could be argued that the achievement of the decent work concept could be hindered if poor standards of behaviour and attitudes are exhibited by workers at all levels.  Decent work can only thrive in an environment in which a commitment exists to the attainment of the highest standards of professional conduct and where workers and employers alike adhere to key workplace principles such as positive attitudes, honesty, performance and good customer service.   

[1] Website of the International Labour Organisation: www.ilo.org.

[2] This can also cover workers with life threatening illnesses such as persons infected with HIV.

[3] an initiative adopted by the I.L.O’s governing body in 2003

[4] Social Dialogue: Fostering economic development through Social Partnership by Tayo Fayoshin

[5] Incidentally, these goals are (i) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (ii) Ensure environmental sustainability and (iii) Develop a global partnership for development.

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