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Labour administration, labour inspection and the ILO-current regulatory perspectives. Giuseppe Casale Director, LAB/ADMIN Labour Administration and Inspection Programme ILO, Geneva. . Background.

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Labour administration, labour inspection and the ILO-current regulatory perspectives

Giuseppe Casale

Director, LAB/ADMIN

Labour Administration and Inspection Programme

ILO, Geneva



  • Labour administration and labour inspection general item on the agenda of the 100th ILC (June, 2011).
  • Last discussions in 1973 (Experts’ meeting), 1978 (Adoption of Convention No. 150), 1997 (LA General Survey) and 2006 (LI General Survey).
  • Recent crisis has highlighted the role of LA, but debt crisis and austerity measures challenge its future.
  • Substantial differences between regions, sub-regions and countries.
  • Increased expectations, but funds limited.

ILO concept of labour administration

  • LA: all public bodies involved in labour policy.
  • ILO and Labour Administration.
  • ILO and Labour Inspection.
  • Social Partners and Labour Administration.

International Labour Standards

  • Historically, labour inspectorates among the first labour institutions
  • Founding of the ILO (1919), creation of Ministries of Labour
  • Labour Inspection Recommendation, 1923 (No. 20)
  • Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)
  • Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129)
  • Labour Administration Convention, 1978 (No. 150)
  • Protocol of 1995 to the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947
  • Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155)
  • Promotional Framework for OSH Convention, 2006 (No. 187)

Relationship between institutions and policies

  • At the international level, institutions often considered secondary, as if they only reflect policies, yet they also shape them.
  • One question is how formal policy reforms (changes in institutional set-up) create: a) deliberate policy changes; and b) indirect and unintended effects?
  • For example, policy impact of changing mandates of labour ministries (employment agendas, vocational training, labour migration…).
  • Effects (and risks) of “agencification”, decentralization and outsourcing of core services…
  • Delicate balance between policy making and service delivery.

New operating conditions

  • Difficult economic environment: high and persistent unemployment, increased inequality and austerity measures.
  • Key issue of compliance because of diversified labour force as well as multiplicity of employment relationships, informal economy.
  • Democratic reforms, spread of market economy and need of policy coordination: the role of regional groupings and of global players (ILO, WB, IMF, OECD).
  • More transparency: increased interest in governance.
  • More pragmatic political thinking in some quarters.
  • Recent crisis, an opportunity to create and adapt policies and institutions.

Main themes of the ILC Report

  • Policy making capacity of labour administration and its role in national development.
  • Modernisation of labour administration in the post-crisis environment.
  • Labour Inspection: Trends and Challenges.

Policy making capacity

  • Place of MoL within the Government and within the national labour administration system.
  • Historically, a specific mandate: protective legislation and promoter of sound labour relations.
  • More involvement in employment and macro-economic policies after WWII.
  • Today, what is the impact of MoL on government policies to make them employment-centred?
  • What is the range of MoL? what are the factors of influence?
  • Revisited mandate: strategic and coordination capability, institutional capacity, co-operation with E/W organizations.

Policy making capacity (contd.)

  • Mandate: important recent changes and organizational “experiments”.
  • Coordination through policy documents and through coordination organisms, including economic and social councils and similar bodies.
  • Institutional capacity: budgetary allocations, human resources, material equipment, and working with data and appropriate internal structures.
  • Even if not directly comparable, there are substantial gaps between regions.
  • Gaps between policy strategies, laws and reality.
  • Focus on better use of existing resources, but critical mass necessary to make an impact.
  • Co-operation with W/E organizations: asset of MoL. Political links and joint interests, but also working relationship, provision of data and other services.
  • Right balance between protection and developmental role.

The performance of labour administration

  • Paradox of increasing expectations and budgetary constraints: do better with existing resources. Large scope for improving governance.
  • Two approaches to better performance: traditional methods based on better control and on the promotion of traditional public sector values or the use of private sector methods.
  • New Public Management (NPM) since the 1990s: incentives to managers to make decisions and allocate resources to produce better outcomes.
  • Management by objectives (MBO): establishing long-term objectives and more concrete outputs (goods and services) and outcomes (impacts).

The performance of labour administration (contd.)

  • Performance contracts as a link between achievements of organizations, its units and individuals (contractualism). Importance of qualitative indicators.
  • Evaluation of policies: objective and systematic assessment is needed.
  • Performance related pay compared to centrally established and incremental salary scales with promotion as the main incentive. Mixed results: increased motivation, but also undermined morale, jealousies and reduced cooperation.
  • Preconditions in terms of a mature, trust-based service culture are necessary.

The performance of labour administration (contd.)

  • Public-public partnership necessary taking into account the multi-disciplinary character of labour policy and the involvement of various public bodies.
  • For examples: job-creation programmes; sharing data-bases; cooperation of various inspection bodies and the regulation of labour migration.
  • Public-private partnership in various fields of social services, job brokering, vocational training, research...
  • Requirements in terms of monitoring, evaluation, guarantee of individual rights, etc.
  • Appropriate managerial structures/methods in labour administration. The issue of managerial support services.
  • Human resources management: effects of fair salaries, training, proper career planning and staff stability. The issue of political and administrative appointments.

The performance of labour administration (contd.)

  • Use of new technologies:
    • Widespread of computers and of internet: potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of labour administration (e.g. raising awareness, dissemination of information, transparent and consultative policy making).
    • Adoption of new technologies remains extremely uneven between countries.
    • Challenges for developing countries: inadequate financial resources, underdeveloped ICT infrastructure, lack of expertise and literacy levels. Basic administrative reforms may be more efficient than ambitious investments in ICT.
    • Large and effective uses of simple tools adapted to country’s technological development (e.g. mobile phones).

The performance of labour administration (contd.)

  • A case study: modernization of PES.
  • PES given a pre-eminent role, not only in delivery of services, but also in developing and testing employment programmes. Consequently, under pressure to make their services more efficient.
  • Institutional changes to achieve better coherence between active and passive labour policies. Integration of placement services and unemployment benefit administration.
  • Better use of new technologies (internet, on-line service and data management).
  • Customer service orientation.
  • Sophisticated indicators in performance measurement.
  • Delivery of services outsourced in some countries (Australia, Netherlands, UK): mixed results. What is the impact on employment policies?

Labour Inspection: Trends and Challenges

  • LI – essential part of the labour administration system exercising the fundamental function of law compliance.
  • Fundamentally, a public responsibility; the risk that private initiatives (e.g. CSR) could undermine the role of national inspectorates.
  • Significant role of social partners: advocacy, awareness raising and strategic planning.
  • Collaboration with other stakeholders (police, social security services, tax agencies, etc.) can improve its effectiveness.

Labour Inspection: Trends and Challenges


  • Traditional and new challenges.
  • Poor conditions in most developing countries threatening integrity and independence of the staff.
  • Informal economy, domestic work, undeclared work (e.g. construction, agriculture).
  • Regulation and prevention of child labour.
  • Discrimination issues: gender, HIV/AIDS, race, national extraction, etc.

Labour Inspection: Trends and Challenges


  • Necessity to adapt to the changing world of work.
  • New inspection skills and strategies for prevention needed (complexity of industrial processes, new illnesses, mental stress, outsourcing, complex supply chains).
  • Improved data collection, use of special inspectors, involvement of social partners and media.
  • Cost cutting efforts of enterprises during the crisis: inspection’s focus on wage payments and working time arrangements.
  • Fight against undeclared work: inspection in specific sectors, strengthening of sanctions, promotional campaigns.

Labour Inspection: Trends and Challenges


  • Improving administrative and legal means of action.
  • Planning programming and reporting. Standardized administrative reports necessary. Management training of inspectors.
  • Involvement of social partners at the national level to encourage more targeted action (OSH issues).
  • Sanctions and remedies to fit a country’s regulatory and economic conditions.
  • Timely judicial proceedings and due process.
  • However, deterrence measures alone are not enough: a good mix of prevention and sanction to be employed, including self-assessments and monitoring measures.