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The ILO @ 100

Addressing the past and future of work and social protection

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Edited by Christophe Gironde and Gilles Carbonnier

On the occasion of the centenary of the International Labour Organization (ILO), this 11th special issue of International Development Policy explores the Organization's capacity for action, its effectiveness and its ability to adapt and innovate. The collection of thirteen articles, written by authors from around the world, covers three broad areas: the ILO’s historic context and contemporary challenges; approaches and results in relation to labour and social protection; and the changes shaping the future of work. The articles highlight the progress and gaps to date, as well as the context and constraints faced by the ILO in its efforts to respond to the new dilemmas and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, with regard to labour and social protection.

Contributors are Juliette Alenda-Demoutiez, Abena Asomaning Antwi, Zrampieu Sarah Ba, Stefano Bellucci, Thomas Biersteker, Filipe Calvão, Gilles Carbonnier, Nancy Coulson, Antonio Donini, Christophe Gironde, Karl Hanson, Mavis Hermanus, Velibor Jakovleski, Scott Jerbi, Sandrine Kott, Marieke Louis, Elvire Mendo, Eric Otenyo, Agnès Parent-Thirion, Sizwe Phakathi, Paul Stewart, Kaveri Thara, Edward van Daalen, Kees van der Ree, Patricia Vendramin, Christine Verschuur.

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May Hermanus, Sizwe Phakathi, Nancy Coulson and Paul Stewart

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Unresolved problems in South African mining, particularly on gold mines, are enmeshed within the system of production through mining methods and labour practices entrenched by apartheid. This system sets the parameters for, and hence limits and constrains, strategies designed to improve occupational health and safety. This chapter explores the achievements and limitations of statutory tripartism in mining as practiced under the Mine Health and Safety Act (mhsa), in the context of social dialogue in the National Economic and Labour Council (nedlac) and other statutory and non-statutory tripartite forums. The term statutory tripartism refers to the institutions and forums for social dialogue established in law. Non-statutory tripartism refers to ad hoc forums in which stakeholders deliberate on specific issues. Presented as a detailed case study in which issues are explored thematically, the chapter benefits from the experience of the lead authors in statutory mine health and safety structures. The authors reflect on the International Labour Organization’s (ilo) role to date and its future role, at a time when prospects for a broad social compact remain out of reach. While key discussions often take place outside of formally established tripartite structures, the ilo’s vision of authoritative social compacts and its institutional forms find expression in many settings. The ilo was important at critical junctures in the past and a continued role in championing social protection, inclusion and dialogue is foreseen. South Africans themselves must, however, find agreement on how best to address systemic issues. The practice of tripartism remains relevant to creating an inclusive and more equal society.

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Stefano Bellucci and Eric E. Otenyo

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For a coherent framework for understanding the future of work, there is a need to unify theories on the role of digitisation in any potential job losses. Is it possible that digitisation not only achieves efficiencies but also retains or creates jobs in selected sectors of African economies? With Africa’s population expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, can we be content with the fact that the impact of digitisation has been mostly discussed in the context of advanced economies? This chapter explores possible effects of digitisation in three economic sectors of African economies. Based on reviews of library, security, and entertainment sectors in selected countries, we interrogate the validity of the disappearing job theory, which is reinforced by the global digital revolution. This chapter is intended to fuel the ongoing discussions about the future of jobs in Africa and the role the International Labour Organization (ilo) might play in sustaining African jobs. Since digitisation in Africa has not yet reached the same level as the developed world, its impact is mostly positive in the selected sectors. However, there is a need to manage any unintended consequences of the emerging digitised workplace. Possible interventions by the ilo and support for Africa’s ability to cope with emerging changes are recommended.

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Christine Verschuur

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Women in agriculture play a particularly important role in the economy. But their work—as peasants and as agricultural wage earners—their knowledge, their place in agricultural systems of production and their contribution to global prosperity have only been recognised in recent years, or still lack significant recognition. With changes in systems of production that are related to globalisation, the marginalisation and the workload of women in agriculture has often increased due to the perpetuation of an unequal sexual division of work in agriculture, and due to unequal access to the workforce and to agricultural inputs, technologies, credit schemes and land. One of the main constraints faced by female peasants and agricultural wage earners is the continuous and increasing reproductive work, which rests disproportionately on the most excluded women.

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Edited by Christophe Gironde and Gilles Carbonnier

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Juliette Alenda-Demoutiez, Abena Asomaning Antwi, Elvire Mendo and Zrampieu Sarah Ba

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In West Africa, the right of access to universal social security is far from being respected. International institutions and African governments have been mobilising for several years to fight this phenomenon. In a role that has evolved over the years, the International Labour Organization (ilo) provides technical and financial support to countries in this regard. How and why does the ilo intervene in protecting the health of populations in West Africa? For this institutional study, the methodology is based on a literature review focused on the history of the role of the ilo in the protection of healthcare in West Africa, specifically in Ghana and Senegal. We show the ilo’s involvement since the 1990s for two main reasons: firstly, the lack of access to healthcare in countries with a specific labour form; secondly, the rejection of the idea of social protection by dominant players on the international scene, leading to criticism following the structural adjustment programmes. In the contexts of Ghana and Senegal, both of which have experienced transitions from community-based health mechanisms to universal health coverage, we explain that the ilo has several ways to intervene—technically, institutionally, and financially. An important outcome is the revelation that the vision of the ilo with regard to health protection is systemic, articulating alternative ways to address social protection for the informal economy compared to other international organisations. But this approach is understated considering the dire situation in Africa and the need to improve access to healthcare and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Gilles Carbonnier and Christophe Gironde

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As the International Labour Organization (ilo) celebrates its centenary, its founding precept remains as relevant as ever: the main breeding grounds for threats to peace are the injustices and unequal opportunities that result from ongoing economic transformation. The moral idea that forged the ilo still lies at the heart of the international efforts for peace and development driving the Agenda for Humanity, the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the consensus on the need for inclusive growth that will ‘leave no one behind’.

This introductory chapter explains the rationale behind the 11th special issue of International Development Policy, which addresses questions around the ilo’s capacity for action and its effectiveness, the relevance of its programmes and ability to adapt to a world of work undergoing profound change. The volume of thirteen chapters highlights the tensions that constitute the ilo and its action, the changing and different environments in which the Organization operates, and the initiatives taken by the ilo to respond to these challenges. The need for adaptation is especially pronounced today in view of the acceleration of technological developments and radical changes in the organisation of employment and work, and the consequent impact on social protection systems.

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Edited by Christophe Gironde and Gilles Carbonnier

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Velibor Jakovleski,, Scott Jerbi and Thomas Biersteker

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The International Labour Organization (ilo) has demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to changing conditions throughout its long history. At its centenary, the ilo must once again respond to evolving circumstances and find new ways to engage state and private actors participating in an interconnected global economy where labour standards continue to be violated and where work itself is undergoing significant transformations. This chapter explores recent efforts by the ilo’s leadership to reassert the organisation’s role in broader global policy contexts. Part 1 presents the concept of institutional layering in order to understand better the agents of change and the structures in which they operate. The three sections that follow demonstrate institutional layering across three core dimensions of global governance—actors, rules, and mechanisms—in the period since 1998. The chapter concludes that the ilo’s current governance practices have mixed prospects for the organisation’s role in a changing governance landscape. New layers of soft law rules and flexible governance mechanisms can potentially augment the ilo’s global standing moving forward. Its lack of representativeness and its continuing engagement of new actors, however, demand further formal changes to the ilo’s institutional apparatus.

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Edward van Daalen and Karl Hanson

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After wwii the International Labour Organization (ilo) slowly but surely developed a ‘two plank’ approach to child labour, aimed at harmonising the need to protect children who do work, with the long-term goal of abolishing all forms of child labour. During the 1990s the ‘two plank’ approach, which included the regulation and humanisation of children’s work, gradually evolved into a more singular approach aimed only at the full eradication of all child labour, starting with the ‘worst forms’. Based on an analysis of the relevant legal and policy documents produced by the ilo and other international Organizations, completed with in-depth interviews with key informants, we examine the internal and external developments that made the ‘abolitionist’ approach now the only perspective that shapes the ilo’s child labour policies. We conclude that, after a century of ilo child labour policy, the intermediate objective of improving children’s working conditions is now just as relevant as it was before the turn away from the ‘two plank’ approach. For the ilo to shift its position at this time, it needs to reach out to the research community, international development actors as well as local governments and social movements to develop locally relevant, evidence-based policies for dealing with the diversity of children’s work in the world’s fast changing formal and informal economies.