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Challenges for International Standards on Working Time in an Era of Globalization. Conditions of Work and Employment Programme International Labour Office, Geneva. International Working Time Standards.

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challenges for international standards on working time in an era of globalization

Challenges for International Standards on Working Timein an Era of Globalization

Conditions of Work and Employment Programme

International Labour Office, Geneva

international working time standards
International Working Time Standards
  • Preamble to the Constitution of the International Labour Organization singles out working hours as an area of focus
  • Since 1919, the ILO has adopted 39 standards relating to working time. The most important cover:
    • daily and weekly hours—8-h day & 48-h week/40-h week
    • weekly rest—minimum of 1 day (24 hours)
    • annual leave—minimum of 3 weeks
    • night work
    • part-time work
    • workers with family responsibilities

(http://www.ilo.org/travail/time/time_standards.htm)

recent debates at the international level
Recent Debates at the International Level
  • General Survey on the Hours of Work Conventions

(Nos. 1 and 30) (2005)

“In the context of decent work, any international regulation of working hours has to safeguard workers’ legitimate interests and needs in relation to their health and safety, as well as their recreational, family social and spiritual values and needs. At the same time, such regulation should provide a greater degree of flexibility than that offered by the existing Conventions so that employers can better organize production and services, adjust to changing production requirements and be internationally competitive.”

(ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations)

recent debates at the international level4
Recent Debates at the International Level
  • Employers’ Views:
    • flexibility in the international approach is essential
    • recognition of modern working time arrangements
    • no “one size fits all” solution
  • Workers’ Views:
    • support for an integrated standard (covering hours limits, rest periods, holidays, paid annual leave)
    • linking flexibility with health and safety
    • focus on quality of the work
    • flexibility through collective bargaining
  • Governments’ Views:
    • some support among governments for a single instrument
    • the informal sector must be taken into account
    • diverse needs of ILO member States
  • Next step: Proposed Tripartite Meeting of Experts
challenges to working time standards
Challenges to Working Time Standards

Cheaper labour costs through working-time extension: the main source for international competitiveness?

  • Longer hours in developing countries
  • Poor observance of the existing legal standards
  • Plus lower wages in many developing countries
  • Two opposing views: “Race-to-the-bottom” vs.

“kicking away the ladder”

long hours in some developing countries the example of china source zeng et al 2005
Long Hours in Some Developing Countries:The Example of ChinaSource: Zeng et al. 2005
  • In 2004, an ILO survey found that about 41 % of employees were working overtime during working days
  • Average overtime hours = 8.6 hrs per week
  • Less than half of these workers (49 %) were reported to receive overtime payments
  • Yet, workers’ attitudes towards overtime are not negative
  • One-fourth of all workers actually working < 40 hours/week
challenges to working time standards diversification of working time working hours source lee 2004
Challenges to Working Time Standards:Diversification of working time: working hoursSource: Lee (2004)
slide8
Challenges to Working Time Standards:Diversification of working time: timing of workThe French case (Eurostat online data)
challenges to working time standards expanding informal economy in the developing world
Challenges to Working time Standards:Expanding Informal Economy in the Developing World
  • Large informal economy in many developing countries
  • Some studies, notably by the World Bank (2004, 2005), link “rigid” working time regulations to growth of informal economy
  • Implication of studies is that working time standards and regulations should be less restrictive/more “flexible”
challenges to working time standards wt flexibility and workers needs preferences
Challenges to Working Time Standards:WT Flexibility and Workers’ Needs/Preferences
  • With demographic changes in the labour market (e.g., women and older workers), there is a stronger demand for adapting working time to workers’ individual needs and preferences
  • As regards the length of working time, many workers suffer “working-hour surpluses” or “working-hour deficits”
  • By contrast, some types of working time flexibility (e.g., unsocial hours) are more likely to be “imposed” on vulnerable groups of workers.
some countervailing forces excessive working hours are not sustainable
Some Countervailing Forces:Excessive Working Hours are Not Sustainable
  • Excessively long working hours are known to have negative effects on health and safety, as well on work-life balance
  • Health risks: overtime/extended work schedules associated with increased risk of fatigue, stress, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, and higher mortality
  • Safety risks: A recent US study (Dembe et al.) quantified this risk—it found that working in jobs with overtime is associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate than jobs without OT
  • Work-family conflict: workers working hours beyond their normal schedules report greater work-family interference
some countervailing forces emerging limits on mandatory overtime in the usa
Some Countervailing Forces:Emerging Limits on Mandatory Overtime in the USA
  • State-level legislation or regulations in the USA have been enacted in 10 States to limit mandatory overtime in the health care sector (e.g., California, New Jersey, Washington State)
  • Universal legislation in Maine: right to refuse to work more than 80 hours of overtime in a two-week period
  • Collective agreements limiting mandatory overtime work--e.g. Communications Workers of America (CWA)
some countervailing forces wt standards and competitiveness
Some Countervailing Forces:WT Standards and Competitiveness
  • It is hard to know the actual effects of WT standards on competitiveness
  • The statutory standard hours are not always “standard” in many countries, even in some industrialized countries
  • It appears that there is no systematic relationship between income level, national WT laws, and observance of laws
  • Thus, have we put too much blame on WT standards?
  • A more useful question would be: How can workers and employers respond more effectively towards “beneficial constraints”?
some countervailing forces wt standards and competitiveness14
Some Countervailing Forces:WT Standards and Competitiveness
  • ILO Better Factories Cambodia project established in 2001 to help Cambodia’s garment industry achieve and maintain improvements in working conditions
  • As a result, Cambodia has been able to position itself in a market niche that focuses on compliance with labour standards, as well as other factors (e.g., price, quality)
  • Results: After expiration of the MFA quotas at end 2004
    • Both the quantity and value of Cambodian exports increased
    • The IMF revised Cambodia’s predicted 2005 GDP growth from 2.3 to 6 %, based on the garment industry’s post-quota performance
prospects for the future
Prospects for the Future
  • Need to actively seek innovative approaches that find a balance between workers’ needs and preferences and firms’ business requirements
  • The challenge is to identify—through a process of social dialogue—an international framework on working time that can satisfy the needs of both workers and employers
prospects for the future16
Prospects for the Future
  • The “Decent Working Time” policy framework developed by the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Employment Programme (Messenger ed. 2004) offers one possible approach for achieving this objective
  • This policy framework includes five dimensions:
    • Healthy working time
    • “Family-friendly” working time
    • Gender equality through working time
    • Productive working time
    • Worker choice and influence regarding working time
contact information
Contact Information

Jon C. Messenger

Senior Research Officer

Conditions of Work and Employment Programme (TRAVAIL)

E-mail address: [email protected]

Website address: www.ilo.org/travail

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